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Day 1
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Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14

Senshuraku Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
Today was a special day in sumo. You might have known it by the number of fans who lined up over night in the cold in hopes that they would draw a lucky number allowing them to buy one of the several hundred tickets the Association releases each day of the tournament. Or you might have sensed it throughout the broadcast as NHK replayed classic bout after classic bout that involved Yokozuna dueling it out on senshuraku with the yusho on the line. Perhaps it was the tickets being scalped for nearly ten times their face value or the reports of the largest viewing audience sumo has seen in a decade. If you follow sumo, you knew that something big was happening today, and the common denominator of it all is Yokozuna Asashoryu.

Over the years Sumotalk has been accused of being pro-Asashoryu, but what does that really mean? If it means standing up for a rikishi who has received untold abuse from the the local media then yes, we are pro-Asashoryu. If it means sticking up for a rikishi who has achieved the sport's highest rank yet has never seen a close call go in his favor, then yes, we are pro-Asashoryu. If it means hyping a rikishi who has shown brilliant technique over the years and a determination to win like no other, then yes, we are pro-Asashoryu. And if it means that his presence in the sport makes sumo better and raises everyone's game, then by all means we are pro-Asashoryu.

We've never asked anyone to root for the Yokozuna to win; and some of us even root vehemently for Asashoryu to lose. But we've always demanded respect for him when respect was due, and we've always stressed how important he is to sumo when others were calling for his retirement. Hopefully after today, everyone understands how important Asashoryu is to sumo. Love him or hate him, you have to watch him, and that's good for sumo.

Without further introduction, let's get right to the action starting of course with the day's final bout pitting Yokozuna Hakuho against Yokozuna Asashoryu. After some painfully long pre-bout rituals, the Kokugikan was electric as both rikishi finally approached the starting lines...Hakuho fighting from the East and Asashoryu fighting from the West. Asashoryu put his fists to the dirt first, and Hakuho charged a second later, but Asashoryu was already coming out of his stance upright in what looked to me like he thought he would false start. Mainoumi thought the same thing after the bout, but it was game on and Hakuho lunged into the morozashi position straightway bullying Asashoryu over to the side and out of the ring in an anti-climactic three seconds. There was nothing Asashoryu could do in this one as Hakuho simply kicked his ass. Replays showed that Asashoryu came out of his stance with only his left arm sorta going for an outer grip but it was more of an instinctive move than something conscious. There was no kachi-age and no hari-zashi, which leads me to believe that Asashoryu screwed this one up at the tachi-ai and gave it away inadvertently.

No matter right? He still had the playoff to fall back on, and with a record setting crowed packing the Kokugikan...why not do 'er again?

There was no way Asashoryu was going to repeat his mistake made in the first bout. After he returned to the dressing room, NHK cameras showed Asashoryu fingering a poor tsukebito as the practice dummy so the Yokozuna could practice his tachi-ai. He next paid a quick visit to the teppo pole to solidify his strategy, and then it was time to head back out for the playoff. The second time around Asashoryu charged hard with the left shoulder managing to get his left arm on the inside. Hakuho quickly countered with the right outer grip, but it was over the top due to Asashoryu's low stance. The key at this point was the action on the other side where Asashoryu obviously wanted moro-zashi but was being rebuffed by Hakuho's left hand keeping the Yokozuna's arm away from the inside. As the two rikishi dug in confirming their initial positions of left inside for Asa and right outer over the top for Hakuho, it all came down to whether or not Hakuho could keep Asashoryu away from morozashi. For five seconds or so the two jockeyed for position on the far side until Asashoryu unleashed a shitate-nage attempt that didn't come close to felling Hakuho, but it did force him to take his mind off his left hand and firm up his balance, but this was all the distraction that Asashoryu needed seizing the moment and finally securing the right arm on the inside with a frontal belt grip that gave him morozashi. Using his already lower stance, Asashoryu buried his shoulder into Hakuho's upper torso and lifted his compatriot up once, twice, and across the straw for the yori-kiri win. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am. Asashoryu moves to fourth place all time on the yusho list with the win. Hakuho finishes the festivities at 14-1 but must settle for jun-yusho honors. I thought there were some things in the playoff that Hakuho could have done better to counter, but this was Asashoryu's tournament, and perhaps even Hakuho sensed it.

Before Asashoryu exited the dohyo he raised both arms in the air drawing another roar from the crowd, and then as he exited the dohyo and walked down the hanamichi, there were scores of fans leaning over the railings trying to slap hands with the comeback kid. The moment got to the Yokozuna as he entered the tunnels of the Kokugikan when he could no longer fight off the tears of frustration that have been dogging him for 9 months now. It was a great moment for Asashoryu and the sport because it brings the focus of sumo entirely back to the dohyo where it belongs. There are so many positives to take from this basho, but more on that in my post-basho report. Let's get to the main event's undercard that featured the rest of the field.

In a somewhat compelling matchup, M3 Goeido stood in the way of Ozeki Chiyotaikai's kachi-koshi bid, but the Ozeki came out firing his machine gun tsuppari that had little effect in terms of driving Goeido back, but they kept him upright and away from the Ozeki's belt. After about two seconds of this nonsense, Chiyotaikai yanked Goeido forward by the back of the head for the easy pull down win not to mention a senshuraku kachi-koshi for the Ozeki. Was Goeido playing along in this one? My guess is he was as he never showed interest in going for the Ozeki's belt, and the Pup's rapid fire thrusts were far more bark than bite. Doesn't matter. Rikishi have always worked out kachi-koshi with each other, and they always will. Since Goeido will grace the Ozeki rank one day, he may as well learn the game now. Goeido finishes at 10-5 with an effort this basho that completely warranted his receiving the Ginosho, or prize for technical merit. There's only good things in store for this kid.

In an all Ozeki battle, Kaio was a split second late at the tachi-ai allowing Kotooshu to pounce into the early left uwate position. The Bulgarian used his left arm brilliantly on the other side to keep Kaio upright as he quickly forced him back and across the tawara without argument. Great de-ashi from Kotooshu who has a solid basho at 10-5. Coulda been better too if he hadn't have been so charitable. Kaio is more than happy with his 8-7.

All along we've been talking about how unpolished Sekiwake Baruto's sumo skills are, but you wouldn't think it now after watching him dismantle Ozeki Harumafuji. The Ozeki dove in early looking for moro-zashi but ended up with the left on the inside and a right outer grip. Knowing he could never win in a gappuri-yotsu contest, Harumafuji executed a maki-kae bringing his right arm from the outside in and slipping to his left as he did so, but Baruto was right on top of the move and picked up the Ozeki by the right inner thigh in komata-sukui fashion and just flung him over to the side and across the straw. It was ruled tsuri-dashi in the end as Baruto used his initial left outer grip to help throw the Ozeki out, but this was a great display of counter sumo. It was also a great display of sportsmanship as the Sekiwake held onto Harumafuji's arm at the edge and kept him from falling off the dohyo. You could see that Harumafuji appreciated the gesture, and he also appreciated Bart's sumo. Wow, that was impressive stuff from the Estonian, and you'd have to call that the best win of his career. He finishes at 9-6 while Harumafuji will take his 8-7 and breathe easy.

At this point of the broadcast, Japan's Prime Minister entered the arena to a nice applause. He ain't no dummy. If I had as much power as he did, you can bet I'd be showing up for my ringside seat to see two dai-Yokozuna battle.

Komusubi Kisenosato looked to finally pick up his kachi-koshi against M6 Takamisakari, but the Robocop had other plans assuming the lower stance at the tachi-ai and immediately pushing the Kid back to the tawara with a right outer grip and left arm lifting up into Kisenosato's right armpit. But the Kid somehow survived this one standing with both heels on the tawara and finally managing to push Takamisakari back into the center of the ring where he wasted no time using his own right outer grip and left arm on the inside to force Takamisakari back and out in a great yotsu-zumo contest. Kisenosato's size was the factor here as he ekes out an 8-7 while Takamisakari had a great basho finishing 6-9.

M3 Takekaze was looking pull the entire way against M1 Kotoshogiku, so after a nice charge from Takekaze, he immediately moved to his left and pulled down at the Geeku who was leaning forward too much trying to recover from the initial charge. This one was too easy for Kaze, and while I don't like the pull sumo intent from the start, you gotta hand it to him; he kicked Kotoshogiku's ass in this one. Takekaze finished an incredible 7-8 while the Geeku must rethink things at 6-9.

M1 Kyokutenho flexed his muscles today against M2 Yoshikaze grabbing a quick right armbar over the top of his opponent and using it to swing Yoshikaze around the ring and down in about five seconds. The wins leaves the Chauffeur at 9-6, a definite shoe-in for the sanyaku come March. Yoshikaze finishes with a 6-9 record, an unbelievable accomplishment in my opinion.

M2 Miyabiyama continued his dominance of M5 Futenoh using the lumbering tsuppari to keep Futenoh at bay for about 10 seconds until Futenoh finally tried to evade to his left, but he was caught by another punch to the torso causing Futenoh to just fall down in exhaustion...not to mention a 5-10 record. Miyabiyama finishes a respectable 6-9.

M4 Wakanosato kept his arms in tight at the tachi-ai befuddling M9 Tosanoumi, and as Tosanoumi looked to mount any sorta charge, the Crocodile was waiting for Tosanoumi to make another push just backing up and pulling down Tosanoumi for the easy win. Good timing bad sumo from Wakanosato who finishes 7-8 while Tosanoumi checks in at 5-10.

Two five and niners in M8 Asasekiryu and M4 Kokkai hooked up in a meaningless contest that saw Suckiryu press the action with the early left inside position that was good enough to aid the force-out charge of his opponent in about four seconds. A 6-9 finish is his reward while Kokkai finishes a paltry 5-10.

M6 Bushuyama took the early charge against M13 Koryu using a series of shoves and thrusts to drive Koryu around and around the ring, and just when it looked like Dolly had his man pinned at the edge, he whiffed on his final force-out charge allowing Koryu to slip to his right and pull down the Dolly Yama to yet another loss. All he needed was just one more win to stay in the division, but Bushuyama finishes at 2-13 and will likely fall to Juryo for Osaka. Koryu's on his way down as well at 5-10.

M6 Aran took charge early against M14 Masatsukasa grabbing the left outer grip from the tachi-ai, but he stood around like a bump on a log afterwards perhaps not knowing what to do next. Masatsukasa was had at this point, so it was a matter of waiting for Aran to make his force-out charge. It came about 20 seconds in as the Russian picked up a nice win to cap off an otherwise lackluster basho finishing 5-10. The fact that Aran took so long to win after a great tachi-ai and advantageous position early is a good indication of just how unpolished his sumo skills are. On the bright side, we won't have to type M-a-s-a-t-s-u-k-a-s-a for awhile as his 4-11 sends him down to Juryo.

M7 Hokutoriki used his usual stall tactics at the tachi-ai baiting M10 Tochinonada into two false starts even drawing the ire of Kitanofuji in the booth, but Nada got the last laugh in the bout after swiping away Hokutoriki's initial morote charge and using a seldom-seen oshi attack to drive Jokutoriki back to the edge quickly and across in about two shoves. Tochinonada picks up kachi-koshi with the win while Hokutoriki will take a 9-6 any day of the week.

M7 Dejima, who has looked quite sprite despite leading us all to believe that he had dislocated his shoulder on day 13, came into the day at 7-7 looking to overcome M11 Tochinoshin for his kachi-koshi. He pissed off the sumo gods straightway by executing a tachi-ai henka to his left, but Shin survived the move and hooked back up with the Dejyptian grabbing a left outer grip that he used to drag Dejima clear across the dohyo dumping him over the straw and halting Dejima's freight train charge not to mention his bid for kachi-koshi. Tochinoshin may have played a little bit nicer in this one, but he was 7-7 coming in as well, so no mercy for Dejima...specially after that henka. Shin goes home at 8-7 while Dejima comes up short at 7-8.

M11 Iwakiyama charged low against M8 Kakuryu and looked for the immediate force-out win, but the Kak is too light on his feet and escaped to his right grabbing an outer grip that he used to pull down on Iwakiyama's belt adding emphasis with his left hand at the back of the Hutt's head. The Kak polished off his bidness in three seconds finishing the festivites at 9-6. Iwakiyama at least has his kachi-koshi at 8-7.

M9 Chiyohakuho struck M15 Tamanoshima at the tachi-ai and went for the immediate pull-down, but Tamanoshima wasn't buyin' it charging straight forward and grabbing the right outer grip. Chiyohakuho tried to escape along the perimeter of the ring, but Tamanoshima showed good footwork to keep up forcing Chiyohakuho back and across in the end. Tamanoshima moves to 11-4 with the win while Chuck's counter sumo fell just short as he settles for 6-9.

M16 Homasho looked to pick up his twelfth win against M10 Tokitenku and looked a shoe-in to get it grabbing an early left outer grip and moving to the side a bit of Tokitenku, but as Homie drove his opponent back to the tawara, Tokitenku used his right leg brilliantly to trip at Homash's left leg from the inside, and it distracted Homasho to the point where Tokitenku was able to turn the tables and spill his opponent to the clay with a nifty shitate-nage throw. Good stuff for Tokitenku who moves to 9-6 while Homasho can't complain at 11-4 taking home the Kantosho despite the loss. I thought the award was deserved in light of Homasho's coming back from dual wrist surgery a few months ago.

10 wins...11's all the same. With M12 Tochiohzan coming in at 10-5 against M12 Kakizoe at 7-7, it didn't look to me that Oh made much of an effort to win this one. Kakizoe henka'd to his right at the tachi-ai trying to pull Oh forward with a right hand at the back of the head, but it was a weak effort allowing Tochiohzan to stay on his feet. As Oh turned to square back up to his opponent, he kept his hands low not really looking to least not to me. Kakizoe pounced into the morozashi position and quickly forced his opponent back and out from there. Kakizoe finishes at 8-7 while Tochiohzan is 10-5, but these two had completely different basho that aren't reflected correctly in the final score that separates them by just the two wins.

M13 Tamawashi welcomed Juryo Wakakirin with a great head-butt and right nodowa that had Wakakirin upright from the start. Tamawashi next quickly swiped Wakakirin's right arm to the side rendering the Juryo rikishi off balance to the point where Tamawashi went for the immediate oshi-dashi kill and got it. Tamawashi falls just short at 7-8 despite the victory, but the win today was huge as 6-9 finish from the M13 rank coulda spelled Juryo for Haru. See ya in Osaka bro.

Talk about a basho where nothing goes right. M14 Toyohibiki welcomed Juryo Tosayutaka, who's a spitten image of Tochinada only 20 years younger. The Nikibi bullied Tosayutaka around and around the ring with tsuppari after tsuppari that made a loud pop each time they connected, but Tosayutaka took the abuse well arching his back at times and keeping Toyohibiki chasing him around the ring. When Toyohibiki sensed he had his man, he bellied up to him at the edge with a right arm on the inside and tried to force Tosayutaka out, but the Juryo rikishi arched his back in deperation trying to pull Toyohibiki to the side. The ploy musta worked because Toyohibiki lost his balance and stepped forward out of the dohyo with the left foot losing by isami-ashi, or inadvertent step-out. Toyohibiki finishes at 5-10 and will have to work out his troubles in Juryo next basho.

And finally, M15 Yamamotoyama seemed to have figured things out with a three bout winning streak heading into the day that led to his kachi-koshi, but Juryo Kimurayama's strategy was the exact strategy that will give the Hutt problems in the future. Namely, Kimurayama stayed back--after henka'ing to his left of course at the tachi-ai--and just moved and jabbed like a finesse boxer. Yamamotoyama just couldn't pivot fast enough to keep up, so Kimurayama grabbed an arm, twisted his opponent to the side, and easily pushed him out for the win. Successful debut however for Yamamotoyama at 8-7.

Day 14 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
Just like Mike was saying in his Day 13, the way these final days unfolded kind of took the stuffing out of the whole basho. Except for the two Dai-Yokozuna, everyone's been losing left and right, such that, coming into my day on the beat, there wasn't anybody left in the Yusho race save the two Mongols. Too bad, because overall, it was actually a good basho, with a lot of excitement, a lot of good sumo, and a healthy number of failed henkas. Also, have you noticed how the two fists down rule enforcement was quietly swept under the rug?

Let's get this over with, shall we? In the first match of the day, Juryo dweller Tosayutaka had the cojones to go chest to chest with THE Hutt (which the English language commentators from NHK call "Twin Peaks"). Needless to say he was completely absorbed by his 120kg heavier foe, who, after failing to get the left uwate, just locked the smaller guy's arm and forced him back and out by kimedashi to get his first kachikoshi in the big league. Tosayutaka is at the same mark, and he might be promoted to Makuuchi too, with a win tomorrow and enough demotion candidates.

Next up, M14 Toyohibiki saved his ass from Juryo demotion for at least one more day with a hard-earned victory over Mongolian Tamawashi. None of the two has any significant yotsu skill, so the bout was decided after a rather straightforward pushing affair, with Toyohibiki's mass and the Mawashi's lack of initiative eventually prevailing. The Hutt stops the hurt for now at only 9 losses, but it's not certain he'll stay in Makuuchi even with another win tomorrow. Tamawashi falls to his makekoshi, but he should be OK.

After a dismal year, without even the smallest kachikoshi, Tokitenku finally managed to reach that magic 8. That didn't stop him, though, from being on the wrong end of a half-assed, avoidable henka by compatriot Koryu, who will be joining the Juryo ranks next basho. Tokitenku charged way too low and watched the dohyo instead of his opponent, falling by tsukiotoshi. I don't know why I'm even wasting time writing about it, it's about as boring as it gets.

In another simple bout, the very last guy on the banzuke, M16 Homasho, who could only muster a 7-8 makekoshi last time, took on veteran M10 Tochinonada. It was as easy as it gets for Homer, who only needed one arm on the inside of Nada to force him out by the uneventful yorikiri. Nada must fight hard tomorrow for his 8th, while Homasho is a lock for a prize with his shiny 11-3 so far.

I can't help but wonder where they find the commentators for the English version, because at times they can be utterly ridiculous. Sure, these two guys are a lot more fun than the others, they crack the occasional joke and even have the balls to call things for what they are, but their pronunciation of the rikishi names is hilarious at best (guess which rikishi toss-NO-me, pronounced just like in English, is supposed to be). And sometimes they even mix things up pretty bad, like saying M11 Tochinoshin isn't comfortable with fighting at the belt. I mean, the man is a yorikiri fiend, for crying out loud, are you kidding me? As for the actual bout, there was, of course, nothing special about it, except a couple of false starts that made Hanaregoma oyakata give the two wrestlers a couple of evil stares and warn them verbally, and a feeble half-assed sidestep from the Blue Collar Man, which didn't do him much good. The Georgian quickly recovered, brushed off the old man's thrusts and finally got a solid double mawashi grip he used to force his foe out. Shin is even and will have to beat the one-armed Dejima tomorrow, while Tosanoumi is already pretty deep in makekoshi land, with only 5 wins so far.

M12 Kakizoe met M9 Chiyohakuho, with both guys at 6 wins and 7 losses coming in. The #3 man at Kokonoe (#2 is, of course, Ozeki Chiyotaikai, and #1 was present in the Japanese commentary booth today) attempted another half step to the left to set up the inashi, but Kakizoe was on his every move, quickly getting both arms inside and yorikiri-ing Mohawk to his makekoshi. As an aside, looking at Chiyonofuji in that commenting booth, he reminded me not of a former rikishi, but of a fast-talking, shifty-eyed crime lord.

My favorite Mongolian fish-faced rikishi in the whole division (in fact, the ONLY Mongolian fish-faced rikishi in the division) finally managed to show some decent sumo, by lunging straight into migi-yotsu against injured M14 Masatsukasa and gradually muscling him towards the tawara and over. OK, it wasn't that bad, but don't get a stiffie until he does that to someone who actually has more wins than losses. Kachikoshi for the Mongol, while Masatuskasa is packing for Juryo.

The senior Hutt at Sakaigawa beya, M11 Iwakiyama, had lost his previous six (!) meetings with the Jokester, and I was really curious how he'd approach the one today. Iwakiyama opted to go with some tsuppari from the get go, but that almost backfired when Hokutoriki caught him with a well placed nodowa and moved him towards the edge. Moonface resisted well, though, and managed to get a decent inside grip on the mawashi, while the Pretender was forced to take one himself. Of course, a yotsu specialist like Iwakiyama fighting Hokutoriki at the mawashi ranks about as low as stealing candy from a baby in terms of simplicity, and the Hutt immediately got morozashi and ousted his outclassed foe from the dohyo. The funny thing is that one of the commentators actually thought Hokutoriki was the one who wanted to take the fight into yotsu (!?). The new father gets his Kachikoshi, while the Jokester will have to settle for only nine so far.

The next one was over in about a second or so, with M7 Dejima doing what he does best, charging REALLY hard and low and hoping he won't be derailed before he pushes the other guy over the edge. And, surprisingly, M15 Tamanoshima (10-3 coming in), didn't have an answer for the move. The bottom line is that the former Ozeki is still barely alive at 7-7, but with that injured left of his it's gonna be hard to take Tochinoshin tomorrow.

In a somewhat similar affair, M12 Tochiohzan wasted little time with the Clown, coming in hard and lifting his foe completely upright with a solid push to the chest. OhSnap gets his 10th victory with the straight oshidashi job, while Takamisakari will have to settle with a makekoshi and calmer waters next basho.

After the break, during which one could get more of Chiyonofuji's intimidating presence, Asasekiryu swelled the ranks of those who have tried to henka and failed this basho. Against Croconosato he slipped to the left and tried to grab the back of his head for the quick, cheap hikiotoshi win, but Wakanosato was fast enough and managed to turn in time to try a pull himself. That failed miserably, but the Mongol failed to capitalize, and Wakanosato got his left on the inside. Sensing the danger, not-so-Sexy deployed a last chance kubinage, but the veteran slipped out of it and just dumped him out of the dohyo by shitatenage, to limit his loss count to just eight. Asasekiryu is celebrating his 9th already, and may well get another one tomorrow for the double digits.

Takekaze had pulling on his mind from the very beginning against Russian Aran, but his hand slipped off and Aran was able to survive. Kaze then started pushing, but when his hairy foe dug in at the edge, the stocky Japanese guy just went back a step and let the sophomore fall on his own. Such shabby displays shouldn't even be mentioned, and I guess I kinda understand Kenji for keeping it the point at times. Oh, the most interesting thing that should be mentioned here is that the English sounding commentator guy called the Russian Aaron a couple of times.

The other Kaze had some trouble with M6 Bush, trying in vain to push him, but he was able to hold him off his belt and eventually get out of the way at exactly the right moment, gaining an honorable 6th win in the process and a (not so) fresh pair of shorts for our very own head honcho at Sumotalk. Bushuyama (2-12) should win tomorrow to make sure he stays in Makuuchi, but who knows, maybe he wants some time off with the little leaguers.

Georgian Kokkai, who, compared to the two above Kazes is a major underachiever, lost clearly against the not so genki Kotoshogiku, after allowing the stubby Sadogatake junior to get an early inside grip right form the tachi-ai. Going straight for the kill, Giku attempted a katasukashi, but that didn't really work, so he could only get a deep shitate from it. It was enough, though, as the happy humper bellied his foe out to his 9th loss. 6-8 is an honorable recovery from the nightmare 0-6 start for the Geek, but he should start taking some sanyaku scalps if he ever wants to be part of the club. Kokkai will be heading for the peace and quiet of the mid-maegashira.

I shouldn't even bother to mention the next bout, but for lack of a better one, here goes: Kyokutenho shafted Futenoh with a sneaky, premeditated, kachi-koshi and sanyaku promotion on the line henka that worked like a charm. 8-6 for the ex-Mongol and only 5-9 for Fruity. Yawn.

In the battle between the most promising Japanese rikishi of the moment, experience and size had a decisive role, as Kisenosato crashed harder at the tachi-ai and never allowed Goeido any room to maneuver, denying the mae-mitsu with some well-placed thrusts to the face. Go evaded to his left, but Kisenosato never lost track of him, getting a solid left sashi when Goeido went for the mawashi again. Without any belt grip and with the Kid pressing hard, Goeido went for the last ditch tsukiotoshi at the tawara, but the inside grip was too good, and Kise was able to shove him down before falling himself. The loss is nothing to be ashamed of for the future Yokozuna, because on a good day Kisenosato will do this to even the fiercest of the Mongols. The Kid is very likely to get his 8th tomorrow against the Clown, while Go has a chance to take a third Ozeki scalp this basho, but I'm almost certain he'll defer to the veteran in need of kachikoshi. (I'd love it if he proved me wrong, but, alas, it won't happen)

Sekiwake Baruto will be keeping his rank in Haru with the decisive victory over the Fatman today. From the start, Miyabiyama went right for the Estonian's throat, but Bart calmly took his punishment until he was able to brush off the pesky ex-Ozeki and finish him with a single push. Miyabiyama falls to his 9th loss while Bart can only be happy after snapping the 5 bout losing streak.

Before Kotooshu vs. Ama took place, the NHK was showing everyone in the ring and near it (Ama, the other Mongolians, Kaio and Chiyotaikai), everyone except for Kotooshu. So Ross Mihara was jokingly imagining the Bulgarian frustrated because the cameras didn't show him any love. Well, he got plenty of manlove of the rough type from Ama, who was lightning quick in his charge, stood the Bulgarian upright and followed up with a shrewd pull that got him right behind Koto-no-show for the effortless okuridashi win. I'm not even gonna bother asking myself if that was straight up (there are reasons why Kotooshu might not want to give it all), because the big Bulgarian can suck this much on any given day against anyone. Ama pulls off a miraculous kachikoshi after a record-breaking 1-5 start in his first basho as Ozeki. Kotooshu is back to his lackluster self and I won't be surprised if he bombs tomorrow against Kaio.

They don't get much weirder than the next bout, which had Chiyotaikai looking to get his 8th win against Hakuho, who was 12-1 coming into today and had to win to be sure he was still in the running on senshuraku. After the henka against Ama, the Pup kept it nice and dirty by shifting to the side and trying an inashi, but Hakuho's footwork was too good for him to fall for it. After trying to get some sort of inside grip, Hakuho was taken seriously off balance by another inashi, but Chiyotaikai didn't have his feet well planted, because the recoil caused him to slip and touch down with his knee. You know, I was wondering why they introduced the tsukihiza in 2001, but this was a perfect example of how you could come across it. Taikai loses on his own and will have to wait until tomorrow to get kachikoshi, but I don't think he has to worry about getting (and not because he can beat Goeido any day of the week). Hakuho stays at one loss and keeps the yusho race mildly interesting.

Yokozuna Asashoryu made short work of kadoban escapee Kaio, getting the right uwate immediately and going for the throw, pressing Kaio's head with the left. The move was too rushed to fell Kaio, but it did compromise him to the point where he was easy yorikiri fodder. Cry me a river and stifle me another yawn. It's not like Kaio is gonna take down Asashoryu (you know, the one who saved his ass from kadoban in Natsu 2005?) when he's in the Yusho race. The Yokozuna stays perfect with the win, and everyone is looking forward for his clash with Hakuho tomorrow. Kaio is already out of the woods at 8-6 and he can take it easy on Kotooshu tomorrow.

You know...after seeing what Asa can do with that 'injured' elbow of his, I'm getting this strange feeling that I've been cheated. Those of you who watch football (the soccer kind), know that faking injury is done by everyone at some point to try and gain some sort of advantage (a time-out, a booking for an opposing player, etc), but it's frowned upon by the referees. Well, it kind of reminds me of the feeling I got when I realized Asashoryu's elbow injury wasn't nearly as bad as his Soken showing against the likes of Ama, Hak and Kotooshu suggested. In fact, I heard Mihara claiming he had first hand information that Asa did so poorly in that session because he had been drinking too much the night before. True or not, his elbow seems to be just fine, and I wouldn't be surprised if he took the Yusho. My guess is that Hakuho wins the normal bout and Asa wins the ensuing play-off. That way everyone is happy, the senior Yokozuna makes his great comeback, all talk about intai is gone, and the fans get to see two Yokozuna clashes on senshuraku. Of course, I wouldn't bet on it, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the two actively pursue this outcome (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

Aside from the Yokozunas, there will also be other points of interest for tomorrow, like Dejima and Tochinoshin facing each other for the 8th (ok, this one isn't particularly interesting, unless you're a Dejima or Shin fan), or the distribution of the special prizes, or the duels for sanyaku promotion. Let's see...we have Kisenosato already at K1E and standing at 7-7 coming in. With Aminishiki gone, Kisenosato is of course the first in line to get the promotions to Sekiwake, and he gets it if he wins against Takamisakari. Kyokutenho will likely get the W Komusubi spot if Goeido forgets his manners and kicks Taikai's ass, while Goeido is certain to at least get back his former W Komusubi spot with Toyonoshima also gone.

As usual, I'll try to take a stab at the Sansho:

Shukunsho: Ama… oh, wait, he's not eligible anymore. In that case, nobody gets anything, because there were no real outstanding achievements this time around.

Kantosho: Yoshikaze...oh, wait, he's not eligible because he is already at 8 losses. But you gotta admit the guy has sumo jumbo sized cojones. In that case, Homasho, Tamanoshima or Tochiohzan should get it (or a combination of two of these three)

Ginosho: I'd go with Goeido for this one. Now watch them apply their obscure criteria and invalidate all my hard-worked predictions.

That's it for now, then. Clancy sifts through the debris tomorrow, but don't mention to him I said so.

Day 13 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
I usually like to refer to day 13 as moving day, but the only moving that took place today was the official moving of the pretenders off of the leaderboard. It's now down to two. And while I enjoy an occasional legitimate uprising from the Ozeki and an equally legitimate threat from the sanyaku, Hatsu is the way it should be, especially since we haven't been treated to a race that only included the Yokozuna for nearly a year. There's still a great chance that the conclusion to this basho could actually top the events from a year ago. For what more could sumo fans ask? Qoghusun as they say in Mongolian, so let's get right to the bouts starting with our leader.

Yokozuna Asashoryu and Ozeki Chiyotaikai are veterans of the sport, and as such they fully played it up for the crowd prior to the bout engaging in several long staredowns. It was nice to see and created a good buzz in the arena, but this one was never in doubt. Chiyotaikai gave a valiant effort charging straight into the Yokozuna with a nice nodowa from the tachi-ai, and while it did back Asashoryu up a step or two, the Yokozuna was never in any danger, and it allowed the him to plant his feet and slip into the morozashi grip before his foot even reached the tawara. With Chiyotaikai's momentum halted, Asashoryu went Greco-Roman and simply threw his opponent to the side with a sukui-nage that needed no help from the lower body. It was a bit anti-climactic after the pre-bout staredowns, but applaud both rikishi...Chiyotaikai for understanding the situation and not going for a henka and Asashoryu for not humiliating his opponent. During the replay, Mainoumi, who is the best sumo analyst on the planet hands down, commented that Chiyotaikai's initial tsuppari from tachi-ai simply had no effect. So while Asashoryu was driven back and did no forward-moving sumo today, he was completely in command of the situation, and it showed by how easily he flung the Ozeki to the side in the end. With the win, Genghis moves to a cool 13-0 and officially eliminates anyone that ended the day with three losses. Actually, the fact that Kaio is his opponent tomorrow eliminates anyone with two losses, but that's beside the point. As for Chiyotaikai, he falls to a dangerous 7-6 with the loss considering he has Hakuho tomorrow. Even if the Pup does fail to win his eight, he should get the necessary help in Osaka.

Let's move on to the day's final bout that featured Yokozuna Hakuho pitted against a semi-dangerous Ozeki this basho in Kotooshu. Kotooshu exhibited a good tachi-ai knocking Hakuho away from the moro-zashi position he was fishing for straightway, but Hakuho immediately lifted his left arm on the inside of the Ozeki's right disallowing Kotooshu to grab the right outer grip. I actually thought if Kotooshu had committed a bit more after the tachi-ai he could have secured that right outer and really put the Yokozuna in a pickle, but it wasn't to be. So with both arms still on the inside without great positioning, Hakuho opted to back up a bit and spin around his opponent dragging him towards the edge in the process. Kotooshu seemed surprised by the move and looked to recover but slipped near the tawara just falling to the dirt in uneventful fashion. After Hakuho returned to the tunnel and watched a replay of the bout, he said, "I was lucky to win." I agree. Kotooshu won the tachi-ai and had the Yokozuna there for the taking if he would have committed with the lower body, but the hesitation cost him leaving Hakuho's superior ring sense to prevail in the end. Kublai moves to 12-1 with the win and should squash the Pup tomorrow setting up what scalpers are paying nearly ten times face value to see on Sunday. Kotooshu falls to 9-4 but should take courage. He's having a fine basho and hopefully can put a nice stamp on it with a double-digit showing.

So let's pause here and set up the weekend. With Asashoryu remaining perfect, only he and Hakuho can mathematically take the yusho. I don't see how Asashoryu doesn't sink Kaio, so if Hakuho happens to slip up against Chiyotaikai, Asashoryu can sill the dill as we say in Utah as early as tomorrow. After another terrible ending to sumo in 2008, this basho needs to go into senshuraku undecided. Without anyone having to say a word to anyone else, I think the four involved tomorrow understand the situation. It's really on Chiyotaikai. I know he needs that eighth win, but there's always senshuraku and next basho, so I don't expect anything fishy. That sorta takes the steam outta Martin's day 14, but if he needs any consolation, he can halve Mark's undies with me.

With that, let's get to the rest of the field. Foreshadowing a change in at least the Ozeki guard, M3 Goeido charged to his right knowing full well that Kaio wanted the left arm on the inside to set up his own right outer grip. The move worked to perfection as Kaio stumbled out of the gate allowing Goeido to wrap up the Ozeki's arm and parlay that into a right outer grip that was so dominant Kaio had no chance of answering on the other side. Goeido gathered his wits briefly before mounting the easy force out charge picking up his tenth win in the process. Some may have classified this as a henka, but I didn't think so. It was no different than Kaio going for the immediate kote-nage at the tachi-ai as we've seen him do or the other Ozeki stepping out wide to grab the uwate. Look, Goeido knew exactly what the Ozeki was gonna do, and he countered it brilliantly from the tachi-ai frankly schooling Kaio who falls to an 8-5 record. With double-digit wins, Goeido has assured himself at least the Komusubi rank for Haru, but I'd love to see him do a little more damage these last two days. How nervous is 6-7 Kisenosato knowing that Goeido stands between him and his kachi-koshi tomorrow?

Ozeki Harumafuji stepped slightly to his left (see what I mean?) in an attempt to grab the the cheap left uwate, but M3 Takekaze countered by stepping to his own left creating more separation than the Ozeki wanted. Harumafuji kept his left hand near Takekaze's belt and actually got the outer grip he was looking for at the start, but he was careless on the other side and allowed Takekaze the moro-zashi position. Still, Takekaze handled it like George Bush pronouncing "extracurricular", so Harumafuji pivoted to his side and threw Takekaze down with the left hand while yanking at the back of his head with the right adding insult to injury. With the win, Harumafuji moves past .500 to stand at 7-6. Incredible. He gets Kotooshu tomorrow, and I would be shocked if the Bulgarian doesn't take one for the rank, so let me be the first to congratulate hAruMAfuji on his kachi-koshi. Takekaze drops to 5-8 but still haunts my dreams for some reason.

Sekiwake Baruto has gotten a bit lazy in his sumo, especially at the tachi-ai. I've described his sumo as reactionary (ukemi is the perfect expression in Japanese), and today was no different as he stood with arms wide open allowing M1 Kyokutenho the moro-zashi position. Baruto managed a right outer grip of his own, but with Tenho's height and excellent yotsu-zumo skills, the Estonian never had a chance. The Chauffeur drove his opponent back cutting off that right grip and easily forcing him across the straw for the dominating win not to mention a 7-6 record. One thing I don't want to see in Osaka is Kyokutenho at Komusubi. He will not give sufficient effort and will weaken the banzuke. As for Baruto, he cannot get off that seven win schneid. The problem is that he's let his losses to better rikishi get to him, and now he's trying to outthink himself similar to what Harumafuji was doing in the first half. 

All Komusubi Kisenosato needed against M4 Kokkai was to get a grip of his belt, but the Georgian kept him away from it nicely beginning with a hard charge followed by a low stance that allowed him to get his left arm on the inside of the Komusubi and stand him up just enough to where the Kid never came close to that right outer grip. Pinching in with an armbar on the other side, Kokkai kept his head low and executed a force-out charge that Kisenosato simply had no answer for. Great stuff all around form Kokkai who moves to 5-8 while Kisenosato was caught napping in this one at 6-7.

M2 Miyabiyama briefly displayed a tsuppari attack at the tachi-ai, but it had no power behind it allowing M1 Kotoshogiku to grab a long arm of the law and twist the Sheriff to the side. From there the Geeku pounced into the yotsu position and looked to force Miyabiyama back and out, but Miyabi largely beat him to it just giving up and walking back that last step. Kotoshogiku moves to a respectable 5-8 with the win while le Shérif has been surrendering this basho too much without a fight for my taste. He's also 5-8.

M5 Futenoh lowered his head against M2 Yoshikaze who had no intent of straight-forward sumo. Cafe struck and backed up quickly managing to grab Fruitenoh by the arm and pull him to the side and off balance to the point where he assumed the manlove position ever so briefly. Futenoh (5-8) tried to spin out of it, but he was had as Yoshikaze grabbed that back strip of his mawashi and wedgied him across the dohyo and out for the easy win. Yoshikaze improves to...gulp...5-8 with the victory meaning between him and Takekaze they have reached ten wins. Fortunately, I did say "combine for more than 10 wins", so Arbo's not out of a pair of BVD's just yet, but thanks for nothin' Futenoh.

M4 Wakanosato surged into the morozashi position at the tachi-ai against M5 Takamisakari and forced the Robocop back and out so fast the crowd didn't have time to over-react as usual. The Cop is on the brink at 6-7, but that ain't shabby from these ranks. Croconosato is 5-8.

In a rather uneventful affair, M11 Iwakiyama was initially rebuffed at the charge by M6 Bushuyama, but he quickly reloaded and forced the bout to the hidari-yotsu position as he flirted with a right outer grip. He never got it, but it didn't really matter as Dolly had nothing much to counter with while Iwakiyama didn't seem distracted by his opponent's healthy rack. Iwakiyama scored the uneventful yori-kiri win in the end improving to 7-6 while the Dolly-yama (2-11) needs two more wins in two days to guarantee himself a spot at the dance next basho. Believe me, we're all praying for you.

M11 Tochinoshin and M6 Aran were both cautious in their charges as if they each didn't trust each other. I mean, you'da thought the two were at war or something. Anyway, they ended up in the gappuri migi-yotsu position resulting in one of the better fought bouts of the basho. Tochinoshin took charge initially forcing Aran back to the tawara where he went for a tsuri move to knock the pesky Aran back that last step, but Aran dug in well and managed to force the action back to the center of the ring. Around and around they continued never relinquishing those dual grips, and as the bout progressed, you could see the trend where Tochinoshin was the one constantly attacking while Aran was forced to dig in with his strength to counter not unlike the Hakuho - Baruto bout. In the end, Tochinoshin proved the victor after forcing out his tired opponent for the good win. Regarding Aran (4-9), this bout was a perfect example of where he's at in sumo right now. He definitely showed that he has the strength to stand in there with anyone. Today, it allowed him to continue the bout for nearly a minute, but he lacks sufficient technique to come back and win against an opponent who has the same position as him. Tochinoshin survives at 6-7.

In a somewhat compelling bout early on, M16 Homasho committed two false starts against M7 Hokutoriki pushing him clear off the dohyo on the first one. Hokutoriki continued his stall tactics a bit, and when he finally did charge, Homasho dug in well failing to get bullied back by Hokutoriki's thrusts. Homie actually got a sniff of a morozashi position, but Hokutoriki fought that off with these exaggerated windmill thrusts lifting each arm high in the air after making contact with Homasho. With the Jokester showboating his way to the supposed win, Homasho turned the tables at the end grabbing Hokutoriki's right prop and just dragging him to the dirt. This was an enjoyable conclusion to the bout unlike the rest of the crap I have to comment on here on out. Homasho surges to 10-3 with the win (he prolly needs 12 for a sansho unless there's no one else), while Hokutoriki gets humbled a bit at 9-4.

It wasn't smart, but M7 Dejima has a setta balls on him because he crashed directly into M15 Yamamotoyama's girth hoping for the quick morozashi charge. He managed to drive the Hutt back to the tawara leading with a right grip on the inside, but Yamamotoyama used a nice left kote-nage throw to counter, and it disabled Dejima from making that final step forward. Dejima next tried to gaburu YMY back that final step. Yeah right. That's like a bearded lady attempting to steal Brad Pitt away from Angelina Jolie. Yamamotoyama finally said enough of this funny bidness and slapped Dejima out of the dohyo from the side. Dejima softly fell into the first row and then took forever to get back up and offer his final bow. He continued to play it up big time for the cameras wincing in pain as he sulked down the hanamichi so slow even the Tortoise was seen taking a nap. To make matters worse, they showed Takamisakari--the rikishi who exaggerates his emotions more than anyone--in the hallway waiting to enter to arena prior to his bout, and even he gave Dejima a disinterested look like get your ass back to the dressing room already. I couldn't agree more. With the win Yamamotoyama improves to 7-6 while Dejima falls to 6-7.

M8 Asasekiryu allowed himself to get completely burned by M12 Kakizoe's tired sumo this basho where he pretends to go for tsuppari but is really waiting for the first pull opportunity that comes his way. It came about three seconds in and The Secretary completely fell for it allowing Sweet Zoe Jane to pull him to the clay with ease. Is it me or has Kakizoe (6-7) been avoiding moro-zashi from the tachi-ai this basho like I've been avoiding eye contact with Mark in the onsen?

M8 Kakuryu completely schooled fellow-countryman M13 Tamawashi after a light tachi-ai where the Kak was mostly interested in getting his hands in nice 'n cozy. Kakuryu ended up getting a firm grip on at the front of The Mawashi's mawashi, so he stepped out wide and yanked Tamawashi forward and out of the dohyo with a shweet dashi-nage throw. The Kak comes clean at 7-6 while Tamawashi falters at 6-7.

M15 Tamanoshima stood his ground well against M9 Tosanoumi who couldn't budge Peter with his normally effective tachi-ai and his head driving up underneath Tamanoshima's jaw. Tamanoshima's defense frustrated Tosanoumi about five seconds in because thinking he had no other options (like continuing sound sumo) he went for the pull attempt that Tamanoshima was waiting for. Wham bam thank you ma'am. Tamanoshima is 10-3 while the Blue Collar Man makes make-koshi official at 5-8.

What happened to yusho contender M12 Tochiohzan? Today he let M9 Chiyohakuho completely bully him at the tachi-ai by standing Oh upright with a right paw to his throat and a sudden shift of gears stepping out to the side and pulling Tochiohzan forward and down to the dirt for the uneventful win. Tochiohzan slid all the way to the corner of the dohyo, which tells me he musta been leaning forward pretty hard to stave off that choke hold. That he allowed Chiyohakuho to completely burn him like that does not bode well for Tochiohzan's prospects in March higher up the ranks. He's 9-4 now while Chiyohakuho stays alive at 6-7.

M10 Tochinonada got his favored left inside position, but before he could hunker down and do anything with it, M10 Tokitenku pulled the trigger on a right outside throw using his right leg masterfully to help lift the Gentle Giant up, over, and down giving Tokitenku his first kachi-koshi in more than a year. Props to the Mongolian now at 8-5. Nada's still safe at 7-6.

M14 Masatsukasa (4-9) charged with his head low and stepped out a bit to the left getting his left arm on the inside of M13 Koryu's right side immediately going for a scoop throw that felled Koryu (3-10) to the dirt with ease.

And finally, M14 Toyohibiki failed to remember that J1 Kimurayama visiting from Juryo always henkas to his left, and even though the he recovered from the tachi-ai sufficiently enough to come back and kick Kimurayama's ass, Toyohibiki looks as if he's wearing glass heels on top of a greased dohyo. The Hutt never once planted a stump to the dirt and allowed Kimurayama to dictate the pace in the sloppy tsuppari affair, so it was no wonder that Kimurayama finally pushed Toyohibiki out in the end. Toyoheavebiki falls to an ugly 4-9 with the loss.

That does it for me this basho until my post basho report. And the sumo gods willing, hopefully that's the only thing I'll have to share when this is all said and done. Martin tries to make something of nothing tomorrow.

Day 12 Comments (Mark Arbo reporting)
The basho, like the mineral rich waters of our onsen, has been heating up. Wheat from chaff, cream to top, sheep from goats, away from pack...all of those...they are all true. The Yokozuna, both fighting well, are going to give us another exciting senshuraku. There are guys having the best basho of their career and there are guys with as few as one win. There is a new Ozeki plotting a miraculous comeback, an old one fighting to stay in a game he loves, and a man with large mammaries who's name lends himself to dozens of quality childish nicknames. So jump on in, the water is fine…

For those of you who don't find Kitazakura too creepy (I know I don't) tune in a little earlier for the next few days cause I think these are probably the last few fights of Old Salty's career. For a guy who has never been higher than M9, this likeable guy is still more popular than some of the Ozeki and was a star during sumo's darkest night.

Iwakiyama and Kakizoe have both blue-collared their way to 5-6 records. Today Zoe won the oshidashi battle but, taking morozashi, his body got out ahead of his legs and The Man In the Moon locked up his arms and threw him down all kotenage style. Can you believe that in 15 meetings Zo has never walked on the moon??

The Secretary tried to climb a couple of Mountains today. The Mongolian seemed to be doing what he need to (keeping his ass waaaaay back and out of reach), but when he couldn't resist an obvious deep morozashi he dove into the abyss, and the Big Boy was able to grab an outer left and that was all he needed. Yams spun, throwing the Secretary out likes an old lady hucking a bowling ball.

Kakuryu came out full of piss and vinegar today and like a Jackrabbit on speed danced around slapping and pulling at Homasho. But Homey's footwork was solid and Kakuryu, in time, fell himself. They called it a hikiotoshi, but it was really just another tweaker crashing. Loose the habit, man!!

Tamanoshima and Hokutoriki have both looked strong(ish) this basho, and they have the records to prove it. Today the lil'Zuna stood Tama up at the tachi-ai with a right to the throat and used that right to power him back and out kind of like a Little League version of Chiyotaikai and Kotooshu a few days ago.

The DejiTrain came out hard sending Tochinonada back, but realizing there was no point in starting to push this late in the game, Nada spun executing what I'd call a Kotenage (armlock throw) but was ruled a tsukiotoshi (thrust down). Whatever it was, Dej clearly hurt his arm in this one and may well not see Yamamotoyama tomorrow. At 6-6, dropping out now would be unfortunate for Dejima. With 7 wins already, Nada should have no problem finding a KK in Tokyo.

Mr. Bush and Toyohibiki both probably figured they could pick up a much needed win today. Buxomyama and Biki came out with shoves that, much to the entertainment of the Tokyo crowd, saw both of them in trouble a time or two. But things leveled out, and they eventually locked up in the middle of the dohyo and decided to settle it like gentleman. Problem is Hibiki is as smooth with a belt as Martin is with a brassier, and Bosomyama threw Big Red into an MK. The Dolly Yama picked up his MK yesterday.

Much has been said here regarding Aran's never having had a loosing record in Ozumo. Well he has now. Today Tamawashi came out hard, and that was really all she wrote. Aran shuffled out backward just like the time Clancy accidentally happened upon that NAMBLA meeting.

Futenoh and Tokitenku isn't exactly a riveting match on paper...or on your TV. After the first and second false starts of the day (Man, I was just thinking, it would be sooo annoying if some lackey, needing to assert his power, was to complain about all the dudes not properly touching down at the tachi-ai and order the judges to call 2 or 3 of these most fights. And then, get this, as suddenly and arbitrarily as he brought these changes in they would completely disappear…. I would hate that!) Tokitenku dictated this bout from start to finish. He used tsuppari interspersed with pulls to keep Futenoh off balance and one of those pulls eventually sent Futenoh scrambling out of the ring. Tokitenku is finally going to get a KK while Futenoh will have to win all his remaining bouts to avoid a MK.

Super-Genki Fun Clown pushed Tosanoumi back to the straw but Umi dug in and brought the action back to the center of the ring. Locked up, but neither with any sort of belt grip, Takami just jerked downward and Umi fell to a dangerous 5-7. At 6-6 and with faltering Wakanosato tomorrow, I think Takamisakari will pick up a surprising KK.

In what was undoubtedly the most important and awaited bout on the under-card, Tochiohzan got reminded what it is like to play with the big boys. Goeido grabbed an inside right that would be the only grip to remain constant through a busy fight. First Goeido used his free left to pull down on the back of Ohzan's head.  When that didn't work he mounted a couple of pushing charges that almost sent Tochiohzan out of the ring and then spun Ohzan around and pushed him back to the center of the ring. At this point Goeido bellied-up and then jerked backwards breaking an inside right Ohzan had been working for and took a double inside. Tochiohzan, totally worked over, could only attempt a half-hearted pull as Goeido showed him the door. Tochiohzan, like Tamanoshima, is now mathematically out of the yusho hunt.

Both trying to stave off a fairly early MK, Miyabiyama used a few tsuppari to stand Wakanosato up and then buried his face in Sato's chest plowing him out.

Kyokutenho needed only an outside grip to overpower Kotoshogiku for a surprisingly easy yorikiri win. That's 8 losses for the West M1. And the East M1 stays in it at 6-6.

For a brief instant Kisenosato seemed happy to trade shoves with Yoshikaze, but Kaze got in too close and pretty much fell into an inside left outside right of Kissy's. With Kisenosato on his belt Yoshikaze couldn't get out of the ring fast enough. That's 6-6 for Kissy who I still think will get his KK as Café makes his MK official.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been losing sleep. It's all I've been able to think about for 2 months. Can the miracle worker do it again? Can Kaio get another KK? DO YOU BELIEVE!? Today the Old Grey Mare who "Hates to win THAT way" set Takekaze up for a "that way" throw right from the tachi-ai. Locking up Takekaze's left and stepping back, Kaio swung the little butterball to the ground outside the straw bails and probably to the X-ray machine. WooHoo! Were all proud of you down here buddy! See you in November!

I wasn't sure how Kotooshu would recover after his day 5 date with Aminishiki (who is still out recovering after his date with Jumbo the Elephant appendage), but Koto seems to have been able to, in large part, brush it off and jumped right back into decent sumo. Asa kicked his butt, but he's Asa and that's kinda what he does. That loss to Chiyo was no Swan Lake, but we haven't seen the total decomposition into a mumbling bag-lady that he is infamous for. 

Today he took advantage of a bad tachi-ai and grabbed Kokkai's left arm and started working him back. Freeing his arm Kokkai gave up morozashi and Kotooshu walked him out picking up as easy a win as he's going to get. Kokkai conversely picks up his first MK of 2009.

At this point Hak stepped into the ring to make his win over Gout Boy official. As an Ozeki this is Mitsuki's first time going kadoban, and it's his first time going kyujo. I'm sure he will be back in full force and better health next basho.

I cant believe Chiyotaikai henka'd Ama!! What an ass hole!! Working on a comeback Ama had to work his way around a ball-less tachi-ai henka from "Mr. Ozeki Pride" himself. Coming in today, Chiyo had 7 wins and 4 chances to pick up the last one! Is he really so down on his own sumo that he needs to get into crap like this on day 12!? On a Shin Ozeki who started 1-5!? Luckily, Ama is as light on his feet as a gay gazelle and though he stumbled he did not fall. The Pup pounced posthaste, looking to jazz hands Ama the final foot or so, but Ama dove in and got a hold of belt. Now, as bumbling Chiyo acted like this was his first time in this position, it was up to Ama to decide how he wanted to do this. I wanted Ama to put some mustard on this one so when he spun Chiyo, I was hoping Ama would give him one more push as he exited the ring to make sure Chiyo paid a visit to the expensive seats. But Ama gently guided him out and actually kept his hand on the back of Taikai's mawashi to hold him from falling off the dohyo. It was classy for sure, but that's not what I would have done, and it's not what Asashoryu would have done either.

I now know this because Bart came out with a henka of his own in the very next match. Now, in the week since I last reported, America has emerged from a bad dream, Kenji has, not once, not twice but thrice been picked up by Tokyo's finest for getting a little too friendly on the subway, and Baruto has gone 2-4. Asashoryu on the other hand has, as I said he would, picked up strength, momentum, and topknots at every stop. So I can understand why Bart might think that he has to do something drastic to turn the tide...but a henka? If The Pup's henka was ball-less this one was just confusing. This guy is bigger than most of the cars in his home country. Did he really think that Asa was going to miss him? So, out of some combination of fear, desperation and stupidity Bart sprung to his right and into the waiting arms of the Yokozuna. Bart reached over and down with his right and awkwardly grabbed the back of Asa's mawashi on the opposite side. I have never seen this hand position, and I can think of absolutely no way you could win with it...and neither could Bart. Deep inside and with Baruto's right hand AWOL, Asa walked Bart out with relatively little resistance. As the big Estonian stepped out Asa slowly reached up and then delivered a powerful extra right to Bart's chest that sent him off the dohyo. This wasn't a secretive sly little jab. Asa, in fact, made quite a spectacle of it, raising his hands to the air and showing them to the fans after the fact. He wasn't hiding anything. Quite the opposite, he was proud and tried to bring people's attention to it. There was absolutely nothing malicious in what Asa did today, he was just asserting his dominance over a guy who had just disrespected him (henka'ing an undefeated Yokozuna on the brink of a hisashiburi yusho!?) and for perhaps the first time ever the fans cheered that.

Look forward to Shu/Hak and Mike eating humble pie (and by "humble pie" I, of course, mean "my gitch") tomorrow. Mike himself will give you all the scrumptious details and then put a sour red plum in the middle of your white rice.

Day 11 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Several young lions are making a run this basho, but the cream is rising to the top. At the end of day 11, the yusho picture is pretty much down to the 2 Yokozuna.

Young lion #1, M16 Homasho, garnered kachi-koshi for the first time since having double wrist surgery after Nagoya last year. He beat M9 Chiyohakuho (5-6) to improve to 8-3 and is looking particularly assertive this basho. 

Young lion #2, M12 Tochiohzan, dropped to 9-2 via a loss to M7 Hokutoriki (aka The Pretender). In a mild surprise, The Pretender took control of Tochi with textbook tsuki-oshi reminiscent of Chiyotaikai. But that is the nature of The Pretender. He can look like this on a given day, but don't buy it. 

Young lion #3, M3 Goeido, defeated M5 Futenoh (5-6). After a straight up tachi-ai, a well timed inashi led to an easy okuri-dashi. Like his school day rival Tochiohzan, Goeido captured his 8th win against 3 losses to guarantee a promotion heading into his hometown Osaka basho in March. 

Certainly not a young lion, M15 Tamanoshima, beat M8 Kakuryu (6-5) to achieve majority wins for the first time since last May. Tama used Kaku's slight pull to bulldoze ahead for an easy oshi-dashi. 

Young lion #4, Sekiwake Baruto, continued his slide with a loss to M1 Kotoshogiku (3-7). Giku used a slight side step to the left and got inside on the right, putting the much bigger Baruto on the defensive. Then he quickly unleashed a scoop throw before the Estonian could get his bearings. Despite the loss, Baruto still sports a respectable 7-4 record. 

Speaking of slides, Chiyotaikai (7-4) fell to M2 Miyabiyama (4-7). Chiyo got the jump on Miyabi and pushed him to the edge, but in the blink of an eye there was an inashi and the tables were turned. With Chiyo all of a sudden backtracking, Miyabi went forward for an easy oshi-dashi. After a stellar start Chiyo is coming back down to Earth as usual. 

In stark contrast, Harumafuji chalked up another win, this time against fellow Ozeki Kotomitsuki (2-8). After a nightmarish 1-6 start, Haru is finding his groove. Today he simply outworked the struggling Mitsuki, who is experiencing majority losses for the first time since 2005. 

And now the real players. Asashoryu (11-0) beat Kotooshu (8-3) via hataki-komi in the most anticipated bout of the day. From the get-go, Sho pressed the issue, and that was the difference. Oshu was unable to mount an attack because he was on the defensive the whole time, trying to deal with tottari, inashi, etc. In this bout, Sho personified the phrase "the best defense is a good offense". He is the lone remaining unbeaten. 

After suffering his first loss yesterday, Hakuho (10-1) got back on the winning track against Kaio (7-4). The two did lock into hidari-yotsu which gave the arena a glimmer of hope that Kaio just might prevail, but the Ozeki didn't have his needed right uwate. Once Hakuho got the right uwate, he marched forward for an easy yori-kiri win. 

So leaderboard has Sho at 11-0, Hakuho at 10-1, followed by rank-and-filers Tochiohzan and Tamanoshima at 9-2. Hakuho probably has the easier road remaining, thus we're most likely looking at a final day decision for the yusho when these two Yokozuna collide.

Mark guards his shorts tomorrow.

Day 10 Comments (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
Well well... It's two thirds of the basho, and if I compare the happenings so far, with what I had thought out for myself before shonichi, then I have to say that everything has been turned upside down. Asashoryu is looking good going lossless so far, Kaio may well KK, Harumafuji has sucked even more since my last reporting time, Baruto has kicked some solid ass with plenty of under-performers like Toyohibiki, Asasekiryu, Iwakiyama, Tochinoshin, Kotoshogiku, etc. and some over-performers like Tochiohzan who might still break down in his second week. But no matter, life is good in general enjoying the nice onsen here in the hotel with gorgeous chicks (who also go by the rule of el naturel around here, wink wink) serving drinks and everyone enjoying the warm water and relaxation. Man that was a good thing that we got the wifi here ... Anyway, off to the matches. 

The day starts with two visitors coming up from Juryo. The first one is none other than Wakakirin, who not that long ago was visiting Makuuchi himself, meeting the double book mountain YamaMotoYama. If one rewinds to the last meeting of these two then a nice memory surfaces of WakaKirin giving the Hutt a nice strong hit that turned off the mountain's lights for him to fall on his knees totally confused. So this match promised to be interesting to see if Kirin can do two KO-s in row or if the mountain strikes back. From the charge they both went for a tsuppari fest with YMY chasing Kirin around who constantly employed a handy lateral movement to keep himself to the side of the mountain while at the same time charging to the side and front when the mountain was most vulnerable (regaining his balance after another evasion from Kirin). YMY countered the attack by lunging into Kirin hoping to use his momentum (both mass and speed) to send Kirin flying and out, but he forgot that throughout the bout Kirin had easily moved sideways to get out of his way. When he lunged he only briefly managed to touch Kirin who was already jumping to the right to get out of the way of the falling koloss. Easy win for Wakakirin, who allowed YMY to keep the lights on this time around. Wakakirin is 7-3 and at EJ3 he might very well make it to Makuuchi for next basho while YMY is exactly 0.500. 

The next match and the next visitor is Shimotori who being at J2 with a 6-3 record coming in is looking for a return to the top division. He was meeting Masatsukasa today, who is 2-7 and needs every win until the end of the tourney to get his KK (so unlikely). Being at M14 he can't afford many losses either or he'll visit the second division next basho. From the get-go the two immediately locked up which was probably the moment where Kasa wet his mawashi today. He tried to compensate by quickly going for maki-kae to get the morozashi grip, but had to be satisfied with a migi-yotsu grip instead. Shimotori stabilized himself and moved in for the kill, but Masatsukasa managed to stay alive by really getting on his toes at the tawara resulting in Shimotori bringing the fight back to the center of the ring. Masatsukasa might have thought that he gets a slight respite to regroup, but boy was he wrong. His foe immediately used the out of balance Masatsukasa to go for his signature uwatenage throw sending Masatsukasa flying through the air. Shimotori leaves the dohyo with 7-3 and a chance to clinch his promotion to the top division already tomorrow while Masatsukasa is now on damage control needing as many wins as he can get, but probably not enough to keep him from visiting the Juryo guys for a basho or two. 

The small angry ball of Kakizoe was matched up today with Koryu who has seemed lackluster this basho. The warm and fuzzy Zoe always makes me smile when I look at the guy with his hands down and ready to go just before they charge. He looks like an angry terrier, but you can give him one thing: he won't be the cause of a matta coming from not having both hands down. You might think otherwise, but I do like his fighting spirit at times. Being so small makes it hard for him among the hard hitters, but his angry terrier pose and fighting style make him an interesting rikishi in my opinion. Today's match however isn't worth much of a mention as Kaki took the match in a run (literally) backing Koryu around himself and out with Koryu not getting a single step in the forward direction. Kakizoe is flirting at the mid-score while Koryu at 3-7 is in serious danger of MK and Juryo. 

A match I personally was slightly looking forward to was Iwakiyama vs. Homasho with Moonface finally back in Makuuchi and Homasho being at the lowest possible rank and should be ripping past his opposition. Iwaki was 4-5 and Homey 6-3 coming in, and I did expect Homasho to win this one. From the tachi-ai both charged with hard tsuppari which lasted a full five or so seconds until Homey lunged into Iwaki hoping to get past the tsuppari and force a belt fight. Well he got what he wanted and immediately tried for a forceout, but was quickly countered by Iwakiyama who also went for a yorikiri kill. With neither man the better they returned to the middle of the ring where Homey tried a number of lift attempts to unbalance Mooney while slowly backing him towards the tawara. As Mooney knew the tawara isn't far and from the strong grip that Homey had he must have known that he'd be finished if he didn't attempt something so he went for a shitatenage or underarm throw which Homasho quickly read and countered with an uwatenage throw himself. Both hanged on for dear life as they plunged towards the sand with Homasho literally moving all his limbs above the plane of his chest and taking the hard hit squarely on his chest as they crashed down to the dirt. Iwaki hit first with his shoulder and hopefully is ok, but that was a very good finish for a bout, one we are not going to see for many many bouts today. Homey needs just one more to secure his stay while Moonface is in trouble at 4-6. 

Have I mentioned that Toyohibiki was supposed to kick ass down so low? Well I guess a detached retina does things to you as Hibiki had only three wins arriving at the dohyo, and he's been a punchbag with little ability to move his foes back. Well I guess he needs a recovery basho down in Juryo. Tosanoumi helped him along today as when both men charged and their momentum stopped then Tosanoumi just took a step back and to his left slightly bringing the under-performer along for the ride and then helping him to gain momentum by sending him past him and down to the clay. Tosanoumi gets his fourth while Toyohibiki will be fighting Shotenro tomorrow to evade koshi. Make koshi that is for him and Kachi koshi for Shotenro. 

To be honest I had no idea what Asasecretary was thinking when he today just leapfrogged into Tamanoshima and spun around him with his hands on the back of Tamanoshima's neck. It did look like a half-henka pulldown attempt, but his heart wasn't in it and as soon as Tama recovered he just slapped Sexy down (or Sexy more or less fell down himself with a little help from Tama). That's the required eight for old Tama while Asasekiryu needs a real strategy next time. That bout was just awful. 

One guy who has been underperforming for a while in the lower part of Makuuchi is Tochiohzan, however this basho he's been looking good and has a score to back it up. He did KK already on day eight and suffered his first loss yesterday, but I don't think this is going to be his usual second week where he goes 2-6 or similar. Today his opponent was Kakuryu, who did have some good matches, but has also had awful ones where he's been mostly on the defense (Yohak vs. him comes to mind immediately). Well today the match lasted a full three or four seconds with Kak making no forward all. Oh poo just grabbed what was given (a semi grip in the belt region) and just rolled on with Kak in retreat. And that three seconds was the time it took for Kak to find the other side of the ring. Tochiohzan continues on a solid 9-1 course and is still on the leaderboard while Kakuryu looks like crap. Sorry Clancy, but this basho I'm with Martin, Kakuryu isn't showing any real motivation or fighting spirit and I'd rather not watch his matches. He did look good in the beginning, and has won a few in the middle too to leave today at 6-4, and he'll prolly get that eight, but nothing spectacular there. 

Hokutoriki won twice yesterday. First against Tosanoumi and then against the Gyoji against whom he used a leg trip sending him flat on his face and off the dohyo. I have to say that it was hilarious to watch and even more when you had the Moose Musashimaru giggling and giving plenty of politically incorrect comments. But let's get back to today's matchup against Tamawashi. The two differed by one win coming in with Hokutoriki 6-3 and Tamawashi at 5-4. Hokutoriki charged way before The Mawashi managed to even think about starting the bout, but as it wasn't called back then it was legit, right? Anyway Hokutoriki followed through with multiple hard nodowa attacks which bent Tamawashi's head back giving me quite a scare (I've yet to see a head being ripped off at that move) and moving Tamawashi backwards and out. Easy win for the Jokester who again joked at the tachi-ai getting a substantial advantage at that early jump to go 7-3. Tamawashi is at precisely 50%. 

The question everyone keeps asking is will Tokitenku stop his slow slide? The guy's got the worst luck going make koshi in all bashos of 2008. Before today he was at 5-4 with a nice chance for kachi koshi, but was paired with Dejima the freight train. Tokitenku was able to actually stall the train when they jumped at each other, keeping him slightly upright with Deji sending a few punches this way and that, but as Tenku decided to go for a pulldown kill he underestimated the steamtrain, who quickly broke through Toki's defences (you try holding back an advancing train) to send Tenku out to the second or third row. Both guys finish the day at halftime and need to go 3-2 or better to get the positive score. 

Now one of the white guys this basho, Tochinoshin, did show some good sumo early on, but has been suffering of late. I'm guessing that armbar throw by the bookmountain did some harm to his hand which has given him a pause and a bad losing streak, but today he was given some breathing room when he was paired with Bush who's leaving office. No not that Bush, but it's close enough as he's got his MK already official before today. Tochinoshin charged hard and immediately moved Bush back a step or two but couldn't finish him off with Bush instead going for a pulldown which also didn't work. They regrouped slowly in the center of the ring with Bush trying to keep the youngster at bay. But Shin had had enough of that losing streak so he charged hard pushing on the upper torso of his foe raising Bush totally upright and retreating. Bush couldn't take it and just collapsed as he stumbled past the tawara going 1-9 while Shin finally stopped a bad losing streak and is at 4-6, but still far from kachi koshi. 

The final bout of the first half featured the lone Russian in the top division who has had some bad luck this high up facing Tochinonada who hasn't looked too bad. At the charge Aran immediately got Nada upright, but as he was upright himself didn't gain much from it. Aran pushed on his foe's upper body keeping some separation between them hoping to keep Nada away from belt, but Nada sent the Russian's hands away with a quick swipe and went for the belt. He didn't get a belt, but did get a left hand inside Aran's armpit while Aran featured a left hand inside belt grip. Tochi seemed not to really need a good belt grip as he charged hard immediately taking the Russian to the tawara, but not over it. A slight struggle followed which Nada nicely used to set up a sukuinage throw turning Aran over his leg while pivoting him down. Aran had nothing to counter it and instead of eating the dirt decided that a hand down will end the punishment too. Nada goes 5-5 while Aran at 4-6 is not far from his first ever make koshi. 

After the quick coffee/tea break and swapping of the gyoji the action continued with Mr. Fruity meeting YoHak. Futenoh is a guy who usually goes double digit wins in the lower Makuuchi to follow them up with heavy losses in the upper one bouncing up and down on a regular basis. This time around however I'd have to say he's looking good even at an M5 position. Chiyohakuho has been on and off with his featured bout being that with Kak, which was just fun to watch. Yohak got a better start giving no sniff of belt to Fruity while going for a nice tottari attempt himself, but the move didn't work as Fruity was able to move along nicely and all that yanking had made Yohak dizzy as when he got to the tawara he just lost his footing and was an easy forcedown pick for Fruity. Both walk away with equal wins and losses. 

Remember two years back a guy who was a Sekiwake mainstay and even got 34 wins across three bashos? A scary tsuppari guy whom a lot of guys didn't want to meet. Well the Sheriff has gotten old and hasn't got the same charge in the batteries anymore. I'm guessing that failed Oz-run might have hit hard mentally too, but after the first nine days at M2 the guy only had a score of 2-7. Today he met the Kokkai who had double the winnings, but not much of anything else. Well the match went about as I expected it to go, the two charged and started to trade thrusts (though Kokkai was mostly in the receiving end). After a bit of time passed Miyabi went for a pull which failed setting him up for a pull attempt by Kokkai in turn, which also failed, but as Kokkai charged at flobby one last time the old veteran just stepped back and slightly out of Kokkai's path and thrust hard on Kokkai's head sending the Georgian down to the clay head first while his feet followed after making a small arc in the air. Flobby survives another day at the edge of make koshi while Kokkai is twice as far. 

Before the actual basho the top of the banzuke looked good with good Komusubi slots, a new Ozeki and Giku in M1 east. Well after nine days things don't look that good at all with Aminishiki and Toyonoshima both kyujo, Kisenosato at four wins and Kotoshogiku at two. What happened??? Well today Kotoshogiku had an easier opponent in quite a while with Wakanosato. The Barometer has been showing low values for most of the basho. Both guys charged hard, but it was Kotoshogiku's match from the start. Immediately after a lot of kinetic energy was converted into potential energy of vibrations in the fat and muscles of the two guys, Kotoshogiku unwound into a very nice and deep morozashi grip. Wakanosato immediately gave him the side grabbing Giku's head into an armlock of his left arm, but wasn't able to use that grip for any kind of throws as Kotoshogiku pushed, lifted and sent Wakanosato across the tawara to his sixth loss. Kotoshogiku staved off make-koshi today, but has quite a test tomorrow when he meets Baruto. 

Looking at the fallout in Sanyaku and the top of the Maegashira ranks there are not many who could get KK and fill the two or more slots that are being vacated. Goeido seems to be a lock for a sanyaku promotion again with his 6-3 record coming in and the next ones close to the positive side are Futenoh who already had 5-5 by this time and no other than Takamisakari who was 5-4 coming in today. If Takami gets a kachi koshi and Fruity misses out on it he might very well be the next Komusubi west in Haru 2009. Now that would be something, wouldn't it, even if he'd come down with a 2-13 or similar record one can already imagine the interview when the banzuke is released. Today Robocop met Kyokutenho who has shown some solid sumo and kept a number of the upper guys honest going 3-6 in the process. Tenho quickly got a left outer grip from the get-go while Takami fished around for a right inner one. Tenho used his momentum from the charge to drive Robo back and out and even though we had a usual Takamisakari final moment recovery attempt we didn't see much more. Just an attempt. Good stuff from Kyokutenho, who goes 4-6 while Takamisakari has to seriously think what he plans to do to get that eight or nine wins and actually make that sanyaku run. 

As I already mentioned before, I was really expecting Kisenosato to come out of the first week with a very good record and under a very good record I meant something more than 4-5 after nine days. Today he was lucky to face Takekaze as you will see in a moment. Immediately when the two charged it was Takekaze who got the advantage. He namely wiggled himself into the inside position and got morozashi. Kisenosato quickly grabbed Kaze's head and thought about a pull attempt, but I think he quickly realized that this will cause him more trouble than it's worth and instead went for the only thing that he could do against Kaze's morozashi, namely armlock both hands and pull them as high as possible. Now in this position Takekaze's grip was somewhat neutralized, but Kisenosato himself was standing very upright with not much balance. He was lucky that he was in this situation with Takekaze as the fella just didn't have the drive to use his position to belly Kisenosato out (he tried, believe me, he tried) allowing Kisenosato to instead pivot and use his grip on Kaze's arm to swing him down to a tsukiotoshi victory. The ending might have looked easy, but this was a very dangerous situation for Kise and he got lucky today. At 5-5 he can still get a kachi koshi and get that West Sekiwake spot being vacated by Aminishiki. Takekaze needs a few more wins to make Mike eat Arbo's shorts. 

After yesterdays highlight bout between Hakuho and Goeido I was very sure that Baruto should have little problems with getting the youngster out of the ring, but boy was I wrong (and not just me if one takes a look at the pick percentage Baruto had in various sumo games today). Baruto did charge hard with his both hands lunging for the front of Goeido's mawashi, but as Goeido was going for the front of the belt himself then this move didn't work for Bart so he quickly swapped both of his arms to the outside to neutralize that grip which Goeido had. Stop here. If you have watched Goeido fight before, then you know that his favorite grip is that of left arm on the front of his opponents mawashi and he has pulled some nice upsets or come very close to them using precisely that grip. So which grip do you want to keep him away from? Right, from the left hand in the front of the mawashi. When Bart grabbed that hand into an armlock you could see that Goeido had no way of using that preferred grip and would probably have changed tactics after a short while. However Baruto having absolutely no decent grip decided to get one. And instead of keeping the right hand where it was (nicely neutralizing Goeido) and fish for a grip with his left arm he decided to do the exact opposite, namely go for a maki kae attempt on his right arm. Goeido read the move perfectly and attacked hard the moment Bart let go. There was nothing for the Estonian to do but to go back and out.

Baruto did lose the advantage at the tachi-ai today when he tried to go for morozashi and then quickly for moro-uwate giving Goeido not only his preferred left hand grip on the front of Baruto's belt but also an inside grip on the right hand side or in other words morozashi. History has shown that even when Baruto gives up morozashi that doesn't mean instant victory, so he did have a chance, but the maki-kae attempt was a mistake. Then again one learns from his mistakes hopefully and today was a painful lesson, but I hope he improves from it. About what I translated from the Estonian press of the after-bout comments from Baruto and Hakuho, I at least seemed to get the feeling, that he's understanding that pure strength isn't enough at this level and if he wants to move on and seriously contend for the Yusho and bring down a Yokozuna, then he needs to improve in other regards as well. That's precisely what I said in the day three report and I sure hope he meditates on these ideas and improves in the next round of keiko. For now he needs to win at least one more and if he can pick up two besides that can set up for an Oz-run at least by the numbers. Even though my bias for Baruto shows very prominently I guess I can be excused due to my origin, but I do give credit where credit is due, and Goeido did today exactly what he needed to do to get that victory. At 7-3 he's almost certainly a lock to get back to sanyaku for Haru and if Kise misses kachi koshi he might actually get a career high west Sekiwake spot. 

Next up was Yoshikaze the double espresso guy vs. old bear Kaio. I would not have expected Kaio to come in on day ten with six victories under his belt based on the information that was available before the basho, but it seems that some old favors, arm breaking and good luck have brought the bear close to the point where he can calmly continue for yet another last Kyushu basho. Oh well. Today the bear showed the caffeinated one what it means to be an old veteran by absorbing Kaze's charge, moving back a step and then swooping the youngster to his right and down. Not a muscle moved in Kaio's face as he matter of factly raised and went to wait for that bow. 7-3 for Kaio who is essentially out of kadoban as there's no way in hell Kotomitsuki is gonna kachi koshi, so that's a favor without a high price coming his way. Yoshikaze is 3-7 and can help Takekaze with a win or two over the next few days to make Mike post a youtube vid of eating shorts. 

Kotooshu has actually looked good this basho. He has charged hard and kept moving forward. He uses his arms and legs as he should be doing every basho and every bout and he'd be way more than the average ozeki. Coming in he already had his kachi koshi and paycheck secure with Chiyotaikai at 6-3 and some need for wins for sure. That hard charge that I just talked about wasn't that hard today as Kotooshu and Chiyo charged into each other. Chiyotaikai immediately managed to lift the Bulgarian upright and backpedaling followed by a few thrusts and finally keeping just an arm strongly in contact with Oshu to move him out for the win. I have to say it didn't look fishy and I'm not even sure there was much backrubbing done (though Chiyo was the one who saved Oshu from MK last basho), but probably the mere fact that Oshu had his eight and Chiyo really needed this win might have already contributed to the needed outcome. 

Throughout the day the NHK was showing a table with four entries in it. It's the table of the four previous times when two Yokozuna have met on senshuraku undefeated. The last time was 1983 where Chiyonofuji and Takanosato met. Takanosato took that match with a tsuridashi move. Everybody was already wetting their appetite for the match to come in six days, but I think what would be even more interesting would be if the guy who is the surest taker for the Yusho would drop one. Well ... today I got what I wanted (in terms of making the Yusho race more exciting) when Hakuho and Ama *ahem* Harumafuji collided where Ama immediately got a two hand grip on the front of Hakuho's mawashi. Hakuho did lock his arms, but Ama (easier to type and I like that name better) grabbed a deeper left inside grip near Hak's ass and when the Yok charged pivoted to go for a shitatenage throw, but that didn't work. With a morozashi grip Ama was sure enough in a good position nevertheless and when the two battled moving across the dohyo with Ama hanging with his teeth onto his fought grip and Hakuho trying to shake it off and get ANY kind of grip himself the inevitable eventually came. While Hak was fishing for a belt grip Ama went for a second shitatenage throw and this time he had timed it perfectly catching Hak a tick off guard getting him totally off balance and turned around for a quick finish at the tawara. Great stuff from Harumafuji who got the imitative straight from the tachi-ai gaining morozashi and staying with that grip throughout the battle. This is the ozumo that we wanted to see from the ex-silver mawashi owner who has really sucked the first nine days. This is why he got the Ozeki promotion and everyone was expecting him to contend for the yusho. Oh well. At least we see that old little Ama is still there inside that hAruMAfuji. With that loss Hakuho is one win off the pace which provides for a huge variety of ways how this can play out during the next five days. 

This of course got Martin all excited. You know Mark already mentioned that we were able to convince that we needed the wifi at the onsen so that we can relax after a hard day at work (keeping an eye on every slight detail of the bouts and the women there of course). Well now Martin is splashing all around trying to tell everyone his theory how Hak dropped this one so that Ama can get his KK and Asa can go undefeated until day 15 where they meet and Hak wins and then there is a playoff and so on. And then five minutes later he jumps around like a small baby splashing (come to think of it, why is he wearing these things on his arms that keep you afloat ...) and comes with the next possible scenario. Oh well Clancy and Arbo are already tired and have migrated over to the ladies section (remember it's all au naturel here ...) while Mike is trying to be patient and polite and listen to everything Martin has to say. I myself have floated away slightly so that he doesn't splash the laptop wet (I do save every 30 seconds or so with a copy going to 5 different servers on different continents just in case ...). 

Anyway getting back to sumo there's the musubi-no-ichiban bout left, with Asashoryu against Kotomitsuki and while Asashoryu has not been dominating this basho, he has won all his bouts so far while Kotomitsuki and dominating go in the same sentence only when the last word is used for his opponent. With today's meeting it was either the first loss to the Yokozuna or make koshi for Mitsu. To Mitsu's credit he did charge hard moving the Yok back a step, but they locked up quickly enough. Asa enjoyed a left hand inside and Mitsu a right hand outside grip while the other hand was fishing around for both. After about five seconds Asa yanked hard on Mitsu moving him laterally a meter or so and gaining a nice right hand grip too. With that he immediately charged for the kill and got Mitsu to the tawara quickly. There he relinquished his grip to push Mitsu out. However before he managed to take his left hand out from Mitsu's armlock (his only defensive maneuver) Mitsu squeezed in hard to hang on and in the process looked to have strained Asa's left elbow in a position that looked very painful. When Asa walked away to his side of the dohyo he was holding his left elbow and having a look of "Great, that's definitely not what I needed...". When he walked down the hanamichi it was visible that he still favored that arm and was grimacing while rubbing it. That definitely will not help when he meets Kotooshu tomorrow and might have screwed up "the big Mongolian conspiracy". Well I doubt there is such a thing but having a half working elbow will definitely make it tough for him to remain lossless until the end and nevertheless would still mean that he has to fight Hakuho, where he needs to be 100% to be able to down his fellow Yokozuna. So even though Asashoryu is the sole leader after today, I'm afraid that this re-injury of his elbow might mean that he may very well go only 11-4 to 13-2 and not contend for the Yusho in the last two days. He still has some tough opposition in Kotooshu and Baruto left, but we will see how it turns out in the end. 

Kenji bakes your cake tomorrow, and I'm not even sad that he probably isn't covering the first half as if I'd have to rely on my gut feeling for tomorrow on who the winners are for the first half of the torikumi I'd have to say that the only thing I'm feeling at the moment is gas, and all I can do with that is some nice bubbles...

Day 9 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
How long has it been since bouts on day 8 and day 9 mattered? I mean really mattered. When legitimate contenders for the yusho begin battling each other at the basho's midpoint, you're guaranteed an outstanding tournament. And what makes things more exciting is that non-Yokozuna rikishi you'd expect to be in the mix really aren't there this tournament. Harumafuji is redefining the term "disaster", Kotomitsuki was beaten by the bottle before the fortnight started, and Kisenosato's lack of early upsets resulted in his bad start. Just imagine the three aforementioned rikishi actually looking good in Haru, and then throw them into the mix with the tourney's current leaders Hakuho, Asashoryu, Kotooshu, and Baruto. The key is for Asashoryu to stay healthy because it is no coincidence that the best tournaments are the ones where the dai-Yokozuna is present and healthy.

On that note, let's start from the top of the leaderboard and work our way down beginning with the best bout of chikara-zumo we've seen in a year when Sekiwake Baruto paid a visit to Yokozuna Hakuho. The Yokozuna actually secured the quick moro-zashi position from the tachi-ai, but Baruto slipped back and to his left leaving Hakuho with only the inside position on the right. Bart managed to get his own right arm on the inside of Hakuho, and it was game on. Both rikishi jockeyed a bit in the center of the ring fishing for that deciding left outer grip, and when both got it at the same time, it put the two strongest rikishi in sumo in the gappuri yotsu position where both enjoyed right inners and  left outers. Hakuho forced the action first hinting at a few leg swipes and mixing in a few tsuri attempts that kept Baruto on the defensive, but the Estonian was putting up a valiant fight. Around and around they danced with Hakuho testing the waters only to have Baruto rebuff his every move, but after the bout reached the 1 minute 10 second mark, Hakuho made the final move positioning his left leg inwards to set up a throw with the outside grip on the left side, and you could see that the Yokozuna has been here before because he used the right hand to pull at the back of the Estonian's head as he dumped the Sekiwake to the clay in spectacular fashion.

What a bout! It's also a fight that may draw comparisons to the Hakuho - Asashoryu matchup last year in Hatsu, and even though both bouts were exciting to watch, you can't compare the two because in the bout today, Baruto didn't employ a single offensive maneuver. Which brings us to the point we've been talking about already this basho, namely that Baruto's sumo is too reactionary. Today's contest was a perfect example. Baruto gave Hakuho a helluva fight, but at any point during the bout, did you ever think to yourself that Hakuho was in trouble? It was the Yokozuna who attempted the leg trips, and it was the Yokozuna that tried to lift his opponent up and out. With Baruto reacting to Hakuho's every move and providing no counter offensive of his own, it was simply a matter of time. Baruto admitted that fact to the Estonian press afterwards saying, "Strength alone is not enough. I knew that at some point he would attempt a throw, but I just couldn't counter it. At this time I don't have a strategy to defeat a Yokozuna." And thnks to Doc Mario for the translation. That it took over a minute for Hakuho to dispatch his opponent shows how far Baruto has come, but he still has a long way to go before he can become an elite rikishi.

The answer for Baruto begins in the keiko ring. I think the Sekiwake knows that he's got to be more offensive in his approach, and that showed against Kotooshu on Saturday when Bart opened that bout with attempts at tsuppari, but he looked foolish in the end there because he abandoned what has got him here in the first place--a passive approach where he lets his opponent come to him and get swallowed up in the machine. Of course Bart knows what he's got to do, and no, he's not content to be a Sekiwake lifer. The good news is that even in his current state, he's a terror on the dohyo and a rikishi that no one wants to fight...ever. With the win, Hakuho moves to 9-0 and won't face another test like this until senshuraku. Bart falls to 7-2, but he's already had a great basho and established himself as a top 6 or 7 rikishi not to mention a legitimate yusho contender.

Take your pick in terms of which bout was more anticipated today...Hakuho vs. Baruto or Asashoryu vs. Harumafuji. The luster was sorta taken off of the Asa-Harumafuji bout thanks to Harumafuji's horrific start in Hatsu. Still, heading into the basho, Harumafuji was prolly second at the top of Asashoryu's list of rikishi he doesn't want to face. Asashoryu used a quick hari-te with the right hand as he positioned his left arm on the inside after the classic hari-zashi tachi-ai (another Asashoryu trait that has been restored this basho!). Harumafuji countered with the right outer grip, but after failing to grab a right outer of his own, Asashoryu wrenched his hips attempting to shake off Harumafuji's right outer. It didn't work entirely but you could see the Yokozuna's belt loosen up rendering Harumafuji's grasp slightly weaker, which gave Genghis the advantage he needed to make his force-out charge; and charge straightway he did. As Harumafuji was being driven back, he went for a maki-kae and got it, but he was moving back so forcefully that he couldn't dig in and make a true stand. As he tried to reposition himself at the tawara, Asashoryu used his right hand to shove down into the Ozeki's chest sending him to the dohyo a bit awkwardly not dissimilar to the way he dismantled Aminishiki. This was excellent stuff from the Yokozuna who has regained his fighting spirit. It's a passion that I don't think we've seen from him since Haru 2008. I rarely agree with token female member of the Deliberation Council, but I thoroughly agreed with a comment she made back in September I think it was saying that Asashoryu was only 27 and that it was a shame he had lost his passion for sumo. What's especially encouraging to me is that the Wednesday before the tournament started, Asashoryu had his ass handed to him in front of the YDC and the Sumo Association brass; yet, he recovered from that nadir and a few scares early on to the point where he now stands. Not only is he 9-0, but we've seen the dame-oshi, the staredowns, the redass against Yoshikaze after his harite, and the precision technique that made him so great in the first place. Asashoryu's antics are such that he will disenchant a few of those fans who switched over to his bandwagon prior to the basho, but he's fine playing the role of the villain. Harumafuji falls to 3-6 with the loss and can only lose once more to a rikishi whose shikona doesn't rhyme with Knock-a-ho.

As if we even needed to continue, the final leader heading into the day was undefeated M12 Tochiohzan, who looked to receive a semi-stiff test against M15 Tamanoshima, a yotsu specialist himself. Before we get to the bout, it doesn't matter if Tochiohzan goes 12-0 from this rank. The fact of the matter is that he's been off to these hot starts before from low in the ranks only to fold like a three-legged chair after Yamamotoyama parks his can on it. I'm waiting for Tochiohzan not to snap when he's ranked higher on the banzuke, a scenario that will play out for Haru. Anyway, back to the bout. Tochiohzan took charge early getting his left arm on the inside and using it to drive Tamanoshima back straightway, and as Tamanoshima tried to evade, Tochiohzan had him pinned against the tawara and attempted a couple of wrenching belly thrusts, but Tamanoshima stood his ground and forced the action back towards the center of the ring a step. At this point, Tochiohzan looked tired, and he musta been because before he could think of plan B, Tamanoshima pinched in hard on Oh's right inside arm and used that armbar and his own inside position with the left to turn the tables and drive Tochiohzan back and out in a flash. Just like that Oh snaps and falls to the second tier of the leaderboard with the loss. And just like that your leaderboard after nine days looks like this:

9-0 Hakuho, Asashoryu

Notice how I didn't even add a second tier. Still, wherever that second tier is, Tochiohzan leads it at 8-1 while Tamanoshima improves to 7-2.

In our Ozeki clash today, 5-3 Kaio came in against 6-2 Chiyotaikai, so it was pretty easy to prognosticate who would win today (hint: ask yourself who needs the win more?). Chiyotaikai used a left choke hold from the tachi-ai to keep Kaio standing straight up and then had his right hand at Kaio's side ready to push, but the Pup never drove with his legs and allowed (literally) Kaio to swipe his arm out of the choke hold setting up the eventual right outer grip. From there, the two jockeyed a bit before Kaio easily forced Chiyotaikai back and out for the uneventful win. No surprises here as both Ozeki are primed to kachi-koshi at 6-3 now with Kotomitsuki waiting in the wings.

In a wild and sloppy affair M4 Kokkai exhibited a fantastic tachi-ai knocking Ozeki Kotomitsuki clear away from his belt, but he wasted that momentum by going for the quick pull down. Kotomitsuki survived the attempt but could never get on the inside as Kokkai moved this way and that going for a few more pull attempts in the process. As the two threw any sorta sound sumo out the door, Kokkai finally found himself with his left arm deep on the inside of Kotomitsuki's right side, and the Georgian wised up quickly from there hunkering down and using that inside position to drive Hit and Mitsuki back to the tawara where the Ozeki tried to spin out of the position, but to no avail. What a sloppy haphazard bout, but hopefully Kokkai learned in the process that he won because of his inside position and sound sumo at the end, not the sloppy pulls and dancing at the start. Who am I trying to kid? The Georgian is a very respectable 4-5 while Count Gout is 2-7.

Ozeki Kotooshu stepped out left against M4 Wakanosato at the tachi-ai grabbing the cheap outer grip while Wakanosato turned into his opponent desperately trying for moro-zashi. Technically he had it, but Kotooshu used his right arm to push down hard at Wakanosato's left leaving the Crocodile with the nice right inside position but an extremely ineffective position with the left hand on the other side. With the Ozeki focusing on keeping Wakanosato out of moro-zashi, he wasn't able to slay his opponent straightway, but the eventual yorikiri did come at the 15 second mark or so. I know there was some debate yesterday after Goeido stepped to his left against Kotooshu at the tachi-ai leaving Kotooshu fans to ask if that was a henka or not? I don't know. What are your thoughts after today cause Kotooshu's act was worse. I don't really care. Yeah, I don't like to see Ozeki have to shift to the side to get a cheap advantage, but I'm okay with it a coupla times a basho. No harm no foul. Kotooshu moves to 8-1 with the win, and while I'd generally consider him a yusho contender with a record like that, he doesn't quite have it all together this basho. He's close; and I'm encouraged. But this tournament belongs to the Khan. Croconosato is still wagging that tail at 4-5.

Komusubi Kisenosato absorbed M2 Miyabiyama's tsuppari at the tachi-ai well and was subsequently able to get his left arm on the inside forcing the bout to the belt. Driving nicely with his legs, the Kid was able to force Miyabiyama back towards the tawara where he stood the Sheriff upright enough to grab a right outer grip in the process causing Miyabiyama to just make that final step back out without a fight. Kisenosato now stands at 4-5 having fought the tough competition while Miyabiyama is fading fast at 2-7.

Up until this point, I had been impressed by M2 Yoshikaze's effort, but that was until his bout against M1 Kotoshogiku today where he exhibited the worst tachi-ai henka of the basho jumping out to his left and pulling Kotoshogiku low enough to where the former Sekiwake touched his hand to the dirt. The bout wasn't called straightway, and Kotoshogiku actually recovered enough to push Yoshikaze back and out, but a mono-ii was called where it was confirmed that Kotoshogiku's fingers touched the clay. Cafe's act was bush today. Take that crap back down to the lower Maegashira. No one wants to see it up here. Little league stuff from Starbuck who moves to 3-6, but I don't think Clancy should count that win in his bet against Martin. The Geeku can't buy a break at 2-7.

M3 Goeido charged a bit tentatively against M3 Takekaze perhaps expecting a shift at the tachi-ai, so he was easily stopped in his tracks by Takekaze who stayed low placing both hands at Goeido's shoulders. As long as his hands were up that high and with his opponent having no position whatsoever, Takekaze went for the quick pull down and had Goeido sent to the clay in about two seconds flat. Goeido walked down the hanamichi with a look on his face like "how in the hell did that just happen?" Good question; I'm wondering the same thing. That was an embarrassing loss from Goeido who falls to 6-3 and tainted an otherwise great basho. As for Takekaze, he's 4-5 which means (gulp) combined he and Yoshikaze have 8 wins so far. I said prior to the basho that I'd eat Mark's shorts if these two could put together 10 between 'em, so it's a good thing we've taken to bathing together here at the hotel's onsen. Makes it easier for me to pilfer Arbo's drawers when he's trying to peek into the ladies side.

M8 Asasekiryu used some Derringer thrusts at the tachi-ai to keep M5 Futenoh at bay, but they had little impact and allowed Futenoh to finally rush in and demand his favored left inside position. Asasekiryu countered with the left inside of his own, but the larger Futenoh pulled his opponent in close giving Fruity the advantage. After a twenty-second stalemate or so, Futenoh finally wrenched his way onto a right outer grip on the other side and had his man. Sexy tried to counter quickly with a maki-kae, but Futenoh had his left arm in so deep that he was able to stave off the move all the while driving Asasekiryu back to the tawara and over. This was great stuff from Futenoh all around while I thought Asasekiryu was too lackadaisical in his approach whole basho. Both dudes are 4-5.

M5 Takamisakari crashed hard into the nonchalant M8 Kakuryu getting his right arm on the inside easily and parlaying that into a left outer grip on the other side. Never giving the Kak a chance to catch his breath, Takamisakari drove him straight back and escorted him across the straw in about four seconds. Always good to see the Robocop kick someone's ass while taking absolutely no abuse in the process. And don't look now but sumo's version of Forrest Gump is a healthy 5-4! The Kak's count is thinning a bit at 6-3.

Seeking a little spirituality, M6 Aran shifted to his right at the tachi-ai henka'ing the Dolly Yama, but it wasn't an all-out henka, so M6 Bushuyama survived and actually had Aran back on his heels close to the tawara, but Aran reached under with his left hand had pushed up squarely under Dolly's right teet and used the handle to force Bushuyama back towards the center of the ring and off balance enough that Aran was able to score the victory with a pull down maneuver capping off an all around sloppy bout. Aran moves to 4-5 with the win, and whether or not you even believe in a god, start praying now because at 1-8, the Dolly Yama is nigh unto making a pilgrimage back to Juryo. Who doesn't want to read more childish jokes about this guy in Haru? Forget I asked.

M7 Hokutoriki showed a nice morote charge (two hands to the throat) against veteran M9 Tosanoumi and followed that up with some well-placed thrusts that moved Tosanoumi this way and that, but the Jokester ruined his momentum by going for a pull-down. Tosanoumi could have responded better, but he went for a quick pull himself that gained him no advantage. The tsuppari contest ensued, and Hokutoriki musta been pissed off that the bout was still going because as the referee danced across the dohyo to get into better position, Hokutoriki moved his left leg back just as the gyoji passed tripping him up and sending him sprawling across the clay. The only thing funnier than a woman in a dress taking a dive is a man in a dress falling down, and the crowd enjoyed a nice laugh. Good thing because the bout had gone to pot at this point. Taking no notice of the referee, Hokutoriki (6-3) kept the heat on and finally managed to push out Tosanoumi (3-6) in the end.

M9 Chiyohakuho greeted M7 Dejima with two hands to the neck halting the Dejyptian's charge before shifting gears on a dime by moving to his left and going for the quick pull down. There's always some risk in the move, but having controlled the pace from the start, Chuck (5-4) was able to slap his opponent down with little danger today. Dejima is 4-5.

M12 Kakizoe charged hard and recklessly into M10 Tokitenku who just absorbed the blow, backed up a bit to his left, and easily pulled Zoe down before the two had even reached the tawara. Tokitenku did move slightly to the left at the tachi-ai with the body, but his feet were still planted to the clay, so it was a good move and an all around great approach to the bout. Don't look now but at 5-4 Tokitenku is above .500! Sweet Zoe Jane falls to 4-5.

You gotta admire M10 Tochinonada for having the stones to charge straight into M15 Yamamotoyama and try and budge him. Didn't work of course, and Jabbamotojabba answered with a right kachi-age into the Gentle Giant's throat and a few good tsuppari that had Nada driven to the side and out right in front of the head judge's chair. This was powerful stuff from Yamamotoyama who moves to 5-4, but the rikishi are going to clue in quickly and realize that you can't just run head on into this guy and hope to survive. Nada falls to 4-5.

M13 Tamawashi exhibited a curious tachi-ai against M11 Iwakiyama just standing his ground and ducking his head as he waited for the Hutt to charge into him. At the point of impact, Tamawashi moved a half step to his left to soften the blow and continued to stay low inviting the immediate pull attempt from his partner. It was just what The Mawashi ordered because he read the move perfectly and had Iwakiyama pushed back and out in a flash. Great game plan from Tamawashi today as he moves to 5-4 while Iwakiyama falls to 4-5.

In the most compelling matchup in the bottom half, M16 Homasho stayed low at the tachi-ai and popped M11 Tochinoshin in the jaw lifting him straight up and causing the Georgian to monkey around with both hands at the back of Homie's noggin'. The better tactician, Homasho immediately seized the day by driving NoShine back with a right front grip and left outer grip dispatching his taller opponent in a flash. Homasho moves to 6-3 with the win while Tochinoshin (3-6) has managed an impressive 0-6 slide.

It's always bad when a Juryo guy visits the division...and the Makuuchi guy loses, but M13 Koryu managed to do just that coming out tentatively and using a right choke hold against Shotenro from the tachi-ai. The move was ineffective, however, as Shotenro easily stood his ground and endured the hold for about three seconds before pawing Koryu (3-6) to the dirt with a powerful hataki-komi swat.

And finally, two rikishi who just don't look quite right physically matched up in M14 Toyohibiki and M14 Masatsukasa. The Hutt took control from the start in this one placing some nice tsuppari into Masatsukasa's neck driving him back in short order and proving so powerful that not even a last ditch evasive attempt at the tawara was enough. Good to see the Nikibi (3-6) with a little pop now and then...even if it was against Masatsukasa (2-7).

Dr. Sadistik operates tomorrow.

Day 8 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Day 8, "nakabi" in Japanese (middle day or hump day to Arbo) and I have a cute story. It starts with my wife's pussy. Awaking on Christmas morning, I found it, despite my urgent prodding and poking, to be cold and unresponsive. So I marched back in the house and delivered the sad news: Dinah is dead. Her brother Max had left us six months previous, and we can only assume they both succumbed to the same feline somethingsomethingoximosis. We had buried Max in the forest on a plot we own in the hills, and so it was that after opening gifts and eating breakfast, me and my three chitlins trudged out to the forest with a spade and grim determination to pay our lasts. 

My three year-old daughter has internalized this "death in the forest" theme, and it's pretty funny. If we tell her to sit down and eat her natto, she might show a difficult face and say, "No, I'm going to the forest." Or if her knucklehead of a brother won't hand over his dinosaur, she'll inform us that "I'm gonna take Kai to the forest and he's gonna be died!"

I understand where she's coming from. I, too, sometimes wish certain people could be taken to the forest, men who are mean, men who are cruel, men who mousse their hair. 

The day started brilliantly with the man who is fighting like a god, Tochihosanna, facing back-to-the-wall Homacho Man. Macho had been looking good in week one ('cept for that loss to Sweet Zoe Jane) and there were a few of us thinking he'd show enough sack to drop Hosanna from the unbeaten ranks. Wasn't fated to be, however, as Oh Snap held fast at tachi-ai, keeping his hands nicely in at the E16's chest and his legs parallel, letting Homasho sort of scoot around until their positions were reversed and The Man from La Macho was chased out like an annoying Mary Kay rep.

A lower M winning out in the first 8 or 9 days always brings to mind the arguments for and against allowing a M to take the yusho if he cleans up on scrubs and then gets lucky vs. a few top guys. I know Miguel San Pedro Guadalupe De Wesemann don't like it (breathe the name Takatoriki to him and watch the fecal matter strike the rotating blades), and I agree it is not an optimal situation, but I see it like this. The Makuuchi division is not huge, so the talent level of everyone is relatively high, there are no weight classes in sumo, so smaller guys are at a disadvantage from the word go, the top guys ought to be able to step up and win when they need to, and the possibility that Takamisakari might actually one day pull one out of his pants for four or five days in a row in week two and take the yusho is just too phucking sweet to imagine. Does any of this mean Oh Snap has a chance in this basho? No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. There's only big bad Genghis and Kublai, with their evil henchmen Biomass and Bulgar.

Kakizoe must be feeling a bit peckish, because even though he has eaten the lunch of big boys Toyohibiki, Tochinonada, Homasho and Tamanoshima, he evidently told the Day 8 match makers, "Super size me!" and boy did they ever, reached right out and plucked one of the space morphed humans from WALL-E to be his foe. Someone at the Musashigawa beya might want to buy a VCR, or a computer, so the rikishi can, I dunno, maybe watch some tape of their foes, or look up the fact that Yamamotoyama pretty much loves the outside left belt? Sweet Jane charged right to WALL-E's left side, gifting him the left outside, no, the left backside! of his own belt, which the W15 used to fling the W12 around and crush him down like a dried red pepper. It's a seven day tourney now for both combatants and they need to go at least 4-3 for KK.

Iwakiyama and Koryu went head to head literally, loud knock, but Koryu's attack had little affect on The Moon in the Man as he was pushed back and belted out in a flash. I think Koryu was just thinking about getting to the infirmary after that tachi-ai bonk.

The Nikibi (although with Yamamotoyama's skin condition it seems unfair to call clear faced Toyohibiki a pimple) took the shine off of Georgian Tochinoshin, who is in free fall after his 3-1 start. The E14 went straight for the left armbar, using it to twist the W11 around, but No Shine got re-set and seemed to be in a decent position. Toyohibiki, like an Eskimo, was having Nunavut (hardy har har) and used seldom seen belt sumo skill to crush his foe out. It looked like Zit stepped out first, but on closer inspection it was in fact the fearful No Shine who, (pussy that he is) didn't want a broken hip courtesy of a free falling 170 kg man and put his hand down as he fell out right on the edge. Props to Toyohibiki for seeing the potential for injury and deftly using his tiptoes to push himself off the dohyo and plunge face first into the crowd rather than land more safely on his vulnerable foe. Maybe he should have a sit down with Kaio.

Masatsukasa got off early vs. disappointing Tokitenku, who stalled the W14 nicely, reached under his gut where we couldn't see, then pulled his hand away like a magician, and voila! had Masaka pinned against his chest with his neck bent so far down that he was staring at his own belly. First move I've seen this basho that looked more painful than Toyonoshima's armbar. Amazingly Masaka didn't holler Uncle and kept fighting for a second, but it was a done deal. 

I didn't check but Peter and the Gentle Giant must have squared off at least thirty times. Today was typical of their rivalry, with Tamanoshima coming in hard and Tochinonada absorbing and circling, then using the new position to leverage a push. Peter though had a good outside right grip and dropped a slipping No Nada with an uwatenage to go 6-2.

Chuck got in on the mawashi of The Mawashi quicker than Mario got plucked up by CERN, but he moved forward with his legs too close together, and backpedaling Tamawashi, with his arms locked around his foe's, was able to twist Chiyohakuho down. Ground Chuck has to keep them legs spread wider for a more stable base as he pushes forward (but of course this requires more strength, and dude is just not that big).

Another pair who must have met seven thousand times, The Degyptian and Blue Collar Man, were up next. Tosanoumi held up Dejima briefly, stepped back with a slap on the head, and the train we call the city of New Orleans ran itself into the ground quicker than you can say flummoxed. 

The Kak, standing proud and defiant at 5-2, hit the Prince of Orange in a tachi-ai so vicious, or should I say viscous, that I could have sworn I saw juice squirt from Fruitenoh's head (and maybe a touch of smegma from The Kak's). Futenoh than moved forward well with Kakuryu under wraps, but he was too high on his toes and the Mongolian man muscle was able to force it back to the center, where Fruity gave up all hope and just started swinging. But that is Kakuryu's game, which he is unafraid to play, and the E5 was Kakslapped like a two-dollar whore to his fifth loss. 

I must make a brief digression here and set a record straight. Martin was made to look the chimp in one of his early reports for ST a few years back by boldly predicting Kakuryu wouldn't stick in the division (where he has not only stuck but thrived). Unable to let it go, he bashes dude's sumo whenever the opportunity presents itself (and even when it doesn't). I'm here to tell you all, especially the Fresh reading this for the first time, Martin is multi-lingual, smart, one hell of a billiards man, my good pal, and full of ratshit when it comes to Kakuryu. Let it be known.

Sexy and Cirque
Went to work
Getting the hug on each other, 
Sexy tried tripping
But Circus was gripping
And the E8 went out with some bother

If Chiyotaikai has jazz hands as Mark points out, then The Barometer and The Bouncer were using kazoo hands today in a tachi-ai outstanding for it's tenderness. Wakanosato held fast and let Aran push quietly against his chest, then broke the tension with a quick separation. Aran had the left hand outside belt, and Wakanosato upright, but the former Sekiwake shimmyshook off Aran's right arm which caused the Russian to fall to one hand. He stayed in this position for some time, and I recalled that he did the same yesterday after losing to Futenoh, stayed in a pushup position for about five seconds contemplating what went wrong. The lower ranked Europeans really wear their thoughts on their sleeves.

Mini-zuna kept his hands to the White Knight's throat as he was backing up, and Kokkai slid off the hands to what looked like a sideways pushout, but he turned on a dime and got in a belt fight, then bided his time and finally worked Hokutoriki back and over the bales.

The Dolly Yama proved he is gravity's girl in more ways than one by being stood up at tachi-ai by Takekaze and then allowed to fall forward onto his bazooms. A Bro would have cushioned the blow don't you know.

The Chauffer put Flobby into the backseat and took him for a tour of his own 'hood, namely 2-6ville, resisting the former Ozeki's weak thrusts and shoving him out. In the audience the Emperor's brother was giddily waving his fan about it all.

Geeku got the walkover vs. Toyonoshowa, who will probably be cheering his ass off that Kaio loses out and retires, so they can all rest easy.

Pup tried to take the easy way out today vs. Biomass, choosing to hit and quickly shift to his right. His lack of self-confidence was well placed as Baruto quickly homed in on the Ozeki whose spot he will be taking some time in the next year, getting the deep morozashi (what other kind of morozashi can a guy with arms this long get?) and moving to 7-1. We can't know for sure if Baruto would have solved the full Chiyotaikai attack because Pup didn't bring it, but the evidence suggests he would have. 

The other Ozeki bout of consequence featured Kotooshu and Goeido, both 6-1. Martin had given me the heads up that the loathsome Goeido tried a henka, but as usual when it comes to the Europeans, Martin is seeing with his heart. There are three henka or henka like moves. First of the flat out jump away and barely if at all touch the guy henka, punishable by death here at ST. Then there is the slip to the side or jump over and grab the belt without colliding bodies, cheap and frowned upon and considered essentially a henka to most observers. Finally there is the hit and shift where heads and/or shoulders and/or chests collide and then one guy moves quickly to the side, often to grab the outside belt. This move is NOT a henka and is acceptable, though not going to get your photo on the Wall of Balls. Martin is always saying that size matters, and Goeido has much less than Kotooshu. It is understandable that he chose this strategy. 

Going contrary to his usual style of reaching for a right hand at tachi-ai, Goeido hit and shifted trying to get the outside left belt. He missed and when they re-set, Kotooshu was able to use his right belt grip to just lift up and push the W3 out to a deserved 2nd loss. Still, when guys look up and see Aminishiki at Sekiwake with his extremely dubious sumo, it sends a message: Chicanery and evasive sumo may leave a bad taste, but they'll get you to the sanyaku if you win.

It seems to me that both of the big Europeans may have solved problems they have had. Both men have been able to get the belt and patiently keep their foe centered, not rushing things to move in for the kill. This patience is the biggest change I see in these two, and it may signal a shift in sumo, the long awaited European Era, where Kotooshu and Baruto start regularly beating Yokozuna and perhaps even challenge for the rank themselves. There is no reason why Baruto should not have confidence vs. Hakuho tomorrow, and if he remains calm and gets the belt, he can easily apply that strength to win via yorikiri. Not betting the farm on it, of course, but the day is coming and it may be Day 9.

Hit or Mitsuki took some slaps to the face from Yoshicafe, but gout or no gout, the Ozeki wasn't inclined to lose, absorbing lots of punishment but in the end driving Starbuck out. Both are 2-6. Yoshikaze showed some grit in his first time meetings with both Asa and Mitsuki. Rascal!

hAruMAfuji and Kaio had what looked like an early keiko match, both men gently pushing with arms fully extended, finally Kaio going back and out. As he climbed back up on the dohyo hAruMAfuji offered Kaio a helping hand, and I screamed, "No, don't, he'll break it!!"

Kisenosato jumped the gun twice and when they finally hooked up was driven back by Hakuho. The Kid resisted and came back at the Yokozuna, starting a series of fierce face and chest slaps from both men that looked to have the Yokozuna stunned (by the effrontery, at least). But Kublai ducked down and made to go for the inside belt, which caused Kise to go for Hak's belt, a mistake as the Yokozuna then armbarred it and used it to leverage the Komusubi back and out. If you look at Hakuho's feet, and I mean just the feet, you can see dude has excellent toes. He knows how to curl them into the dirt to give himself great traction, and that's one of the key's to his balance, which in turn gives him confidence when standing there daring his foes to come and get him.

In the final bout of the day, Genghis was looking to avoid any slipups vs. the ultimate snake oil salesman, Shneaky. Asa went for the armbar straight away (Kaio has really left his mark this basho, huh?) and drove Shneaky to the edge. He tried to sidle away and in the process hurt his knee and crashed down in pain (no telling if he'll wrestle on Day 9 or not, but one never knows with Shneaky). After realizing he was injured Asa went over to check (dude knows he's on double secret probation with the NSK and the Kyoukai and the media and the public). 8-0, and to all the people complaining about Asa's "weak" sumo this time out, he's fighting through an injury Takanohana would not have been forced to fight through, numbnuts.

Mike will take you on a tour of the forest tomorrow.

Day 7 Comments (Martin Matra reporting)
I must confess the basho is unfolding a lot better than I expected, with a couple of notable exceptions. The two supposedly stronger Ozeki, newly promoted Harumafuji (whom I will continue to call Ama throughout my reports) and veteran Kotomitsuki, bombed badly, each coming into today with gloomy 1-5 records, and with the strongest competition yet to face. I think it's pretty safe to assume both will be kadoban next basho. Speaking of kadoban and faltering Ozeki, today the Japanese guest commentator on the NHK broadcast was none other than Takanonami, which got us viewers a nice bonus in the form of one of his famous play-offs with Takanohana (Hatsu 1996). And as a bonus to you readers, I'll start by commenting on that (you'll see why).

Takanonami charged low and slightly leaning to the left, looking for the right inside grip, while trying to reach over his foe for an outside on the right. Takanohana denied the uwate and managed to get a solid grip of his own, on the front of Nami's mawashi. The legendary Yokozuna quickly moved in for the kill, hooking the Ozeki's left from the outside and leaning into him, but Takanonami resisted well, using his left sashi to push into Hanada's armpit. Pushed towards the edge, Nami moved ever so slightly to the side, briefly flirting with the katasukashi, but Takanohana pulled back in time. Hostilities resumed in the center of the dohyo, with Takanonami having managed to get the over-the-shoulder uwate he wanted all along, and Takanohana enjoying a deep hidari-yotsu and the lower stance, his head buried in Nami's chest. The yokozuna then used another sotogake to take his stable mate off balance and almost had him over the straw, but thanks to nifty footwork and good ring sense, the Ozeki survived by the skin of his teeth, with his side turned toward his attacker. Takanohana tried one final push, but was prevented from succeeding by Nami's strong uwate, who found enough time to hook the Yokozuna's left leg deep on the inside and lift it in front of him, toppling his more prestigious stable mate in spectacular fashion, by kawazugake, adding insult to injury by elbowing Takanohana's face while falling on top of him. You can see the finish of this great bout here, 2:47 in.

This was all nice as a diversion, but let's get to today's sumo, shall we? We'll start from the very bottom, as usually, with the lowest ranked rikishi in the division, M16 Homie facing recovering Masatsukasa. It's pretty clear Masa hasn't completely healed, because both his elbows were taped heavily and he was 2-4 coming in. The initial charge was strong from both men, with Homasho being driven back half a step, but recovering immediately, getting the left inside and driving Masatsukasa straight back and out for his 5th win. Yorikiri #1.

Next up, Kakizoe the Animal charged nice and low against M15 Tamanoshima, disallowing him any sort of mawashi grip until finally working his way into a double inside stance, pushing upward into Tama's pits. Finally, after failing his attempt at an armpit throw, Kakizoe (4-3) capitalized on his lower stance and better grip and escorted Peter to his 2nd loss. Yorikiri #2.

One truly frustrating rikishi has got to be M12 Tochiohzan. Who knows what problems he might have, but when one basho you suck royally and the next one you're unbeatable at nearly the same rank, something's not right. Fortunately for him, this time around he's been doing very well, coming into today's fight with Mongol M13 Koryu undefeated. And he stayed that way, despite a henka attempt from his hapless foe, being able to latch on to him and gain morozashi after surviving the inevitable pull. Koryu falls to 3-4 while OhSnap deservingly stays on top of the leader board, at least for now. Yorikiri #3.

Ahh, the Hutt of all Hutts. While the English commentary is usually bad, and Dave Shapiro's particularly awful (and on top of that he has an annoying accent I can't quite put my finger on, Jewish-American mixed with some Japanese influences, perhaps?), I have to agree with him on this one, Yamamotoyama is a lot more agile and skilled than your regular fat guy (and I've been saying this stuff for over a year now). Sure, he's gonna lose a lot because of his lack of speed (and those other reasons our local PhD mentioned earlier), but, by golly, if he gets a grip on the mawashi or an arm, the other guy is usually in trouble. And M11 Tochinoshin (3-3 coming in) got to experience that first hand today, as his perfect tachi-ai and subsequent double migi-yotsu+hidari-uwate grip weren't nearly enough to win, as the Double Mountain grabbed his inside arm and lifted him upright, turning him around with ease and forcing him out by Yorikiri #4, getting his 3rd win in the process.

M14 Toyohibiki (whom I and others thought under-ranked), crashed really hard into veteran Tochinonada, but did little else, as Nada was able to withstand him and quickly get the left inside he prefers. Needless to say the force-out was a mere formality, as Tochinonada (4-3) returns to winning ways, while Hibiki sinks ever so closer to Juryo at 1-6. Yorikiri #5.

In what's probably his best sumo so far, Mongol M10 Tokitenku slapped the living daylights out of his compatriot, Tamawashi, with a perfectly aimed harite (that Shapiro dubiously called a roundhouse slap, wait till Chuck Norris reads this), setting up a very solid migi-yotsu position he used to march his foe out with little opposition. 3-4 for both guys, and, yes, Yorikiri #6.

Recently re-promoted from Juryo, moon-faced Iwakiyama got the better of the tachi-ai against the Blue Collar Man, managing to pull him in close and get a solid right inside, while Tosanoumi had to do with one of his own. This position clearly favors the Hutt, who simply forced Tosanoumi back and out for his 3rd win, while the M9 sports only a shabby 2-5. Oh, yeah, Yorikiri #7. Will this ever end?

I don't know what Shapiro's sources are, but they're probably Mongolian, because he claimed he heard people talking about the Kak's limitless potential (!?), whereas Asasekiryu's future wasn't as bright. While I might agree about Asasekiryu barely returning to sanyaku in the future, I sincerely doubt I'll be seeing Kakuryu there anytime soon, what with the young ones finally getting into their groove. Anyway, the previous prediction crashed and burned at the very moment of the tachi-ai, with Asasekiryu charging low and strong and Kakuryu just taking the blow and giving up a solid double grip, just the way not-so-Sexy likes it. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am, Yorikiri #8 and a stop to Fishy's over-inflated winning streak, based on typical, shitty, evasive Kakuryu sumo. Asasekiryu climbs just over the .5 mark, while the other Mongol falls to his second defeat.

Seeing Chuck limp away from the dohyo yesterday, kyujo definitely crossed my mind, but it seems the younger Pup had other plans today. After seeing him show up, Jokutoriki must have had henka on his mind, because he was fidgeting and stalling and the smash-mouth tachi-ai he's been showing this basho was nowhere to be seen, and that allowed the younger opponent to get an early double inside grip and work his way somewhat to the Jokester's side. After a bit of wrangling, Chiyohakuho (4-3) got an uwate on the left and spun Hokutoriki (5-2) around and to the tawara, finishing him off with, you guessed it, Yorikiri #9. Maybe that injury wasn't so bad after all, but you couldn't tell from this bout alone as Hokutoriki would be defeated by my granny if she managed to get the mawashi.

The next one was a sloppy affair, but that shouldn't surprise anybody after knowing the names of the two rikishi involved, M5 Futenoh and M6 Aran (who, by the way, has yet to get a makekoshi). Aran used his thuggish thrusts to try and keep Futenoh away from his mawashi, and Futenoh retaliated, which lead to a funny little slapfest, at times interrupted by quick swipes at the back of the opponent's head (mostly by the hiki-prone Ossetian). After a while they settled in the center of the dohyo, heads resting on each other, both looking for some sort of position. Aran attacked first, managing to knock Futenoh upright with a quick and painful looking thrust to the throat and had him backing toward the edge with another round of tsuppari, but he somehow lost his footing and fell flat on the dohyo on his own, dropping to his 4th loss. Futenoh is at the same mark. And no more yorikiri (for now).

Right after this match, some Japanese lady named Reiko Matsumoto announced the Juryo winners. Needless to say her native pronunciation of the shikona was radically different from what the English speaking guys usually spew forth. Adding insult to injury, while they were showing Kaihō's match with the Duck (Kitazakura, for those of you who missed his glory days in Makuuchi), both commentators pronounced it Kaio. Where exactly do they find these guys, anyway?

But enough gum flapping about gum flapping, in the next bout Dejima, which, by the way, Johnson pronounces DAY-jima (OK, OK, I'll stop), shafted Georgian Kokkai with an ugly, evil, premeditated henka that had The Unshaven One on all fours in less than a second. At least he didn't get any kensho envelopes for that embarrassment. Next!
If there's one guy who doesn't belong this high up in Makuuchi, it has to be M6 Boob-shuyama (from Moob-sashigawa-beya, no less), who, to his credit, managed a kachikoshi in his extremely late debut basho, against all predictions. Anyway, it looks like the jig is up, because he was coming into today's fight 1-5 and he got dominated by Wakanosato, who's not exactly at his best either. After a solid, straightforward charge, Wakanosato immediately got his preferred left inside and dictated the pace throughout, finishing Bush by oshidashi after chasing him around a bit and earning himself his 3rd win. Excuse me while I stifle a yawn.

Moving closer to the serious action, future Japanese Yokozuna Goeido almost beat himself today, as he went a fraction of a second late at the tachi-ai against Takamisakari. It was clear on the replay that The Clown had already started moving forward before Goeido put his second fist down. Shapiro was at one point speculating this was actually a maneuver from Goeido (!?), but I think it was more a case of flinching and reacting involuntarily at the opponent's charge under the pressure of the moment. A storm in a teacup, though, as Takamisakari's tachi-ai isn't exactly the most powerful in the division, and Goeido was able to stop him in his tracks easily, pressed him with his right under the armpit, quickly grabbed the back of his belt with the left and threw him down for his 6th win. It was a bit lucky, yes, but the kid oozes class from his every move. Robo falls to his 4th defeat. Go stays on the leader board, where he belongs after facing the scrubs, but the real sharks will start biting tomorrow, when he gets Kotooshu, who's been looking really good so far. I think he might take him in this 5th encounter, but I wouldn't be willing to bet money on it.

Kisenosato's 3-3 coming into today is pretty good, considering he only faced wrestlers ranked Sekiwake and above so far, and that makes his defeat at the hands of winless Kotoshogiku a bit of a surprise. Giku managed to get a solid left shitate right after the tachi-ai, successfully denying the Kid one of his own. After some serious maneuvering for position from both guys, Kotoshogiku managed to get the uwate on the other side, which he used to muscle his foe to the tawara. Kisenosato stood his ground well, even getting back to safety for a few seconds, but without any grip on the mawashi, defeat was only a matter of time. It eventually came in the form of yet another yorikiri, upping the head to head record to 13-7 in favor of Giku. I guess every wrestler has his nemesis, and I'll bet Kotoshogiku is causing Kisenosato nightmares even as I'm writing this.

Kotomitsuki's horrible 1-6 start is completely understandable given his medical history before the basho (gout attack, SERIOUS pain), but today his loss was very bad, and against an opponent he'd been dominating for the last 2 odd years, high-ranking Hutt Miyabiyama. Kotomitsuki produced his usual powerful charge, but instead of going for the belt, he just fumbled with his hands on Fatman's boobs (yeah, he's from Moobsashigawa-beya too), so he was easy pulldown fodder. The move didn't finish him right away, but it left him upright on the tawara, slightly turned away from the opponent, who finished him off quickly by oshidashi. Normally, one would expect him to withdraw tomorrow, but I have a hunch he won't be going kyujo before facing Kaio (hint, hint). The Fatman earns his second.

In the next bout you had a young Mongolian, newly promoted to Ozeki and with a bright future ahead, and also inexplicably 1-5 coming in, facing one of the founding fathers of the Mongolian ozumo community, in the twilight of his career, and ranked higher than his comfort zone. Simple math, with some help from common sense, tells you that Ama is winning this one 11 times out of 10. Now, I'm not crying yaocho here, Tenho prolly wouldn't win anyway, but he did get himself into morozashi dubiously easy (remember the one vs. Kaio on day 4). It's not really that important, though, what matters here is that Ama is now 2-5 and still has a very slim chance to avoid kadoban. Kyokutenho is happy with his 1-6 so far, so don't expect him to win a lot more in the next week either.

You old-timers reading this probably remember Kaio's dreaded armlock throws, reputed to have broken shoulders and elbows, and ruined careers over time. Well, today was one of those days. Coming into today 2-4, Toyonoshima charged slightly more upright than he should have been, and as a result Kaio could get the left arm safely on the inside, denying the shorter rikishi any sort of offensive openings. With the right, though, Kaio was on the outside, and about 4 seconds into the bout, after a short pause, he grabbed unfortunate Toyonoshima's left at the elbow and wrenched him right out of the dohyo, with little resistance. There had to be severe damage to the elbow or shoulder, because Toyonoshima could be seen holding on to his arm all the time the cameras were on him (and that was a good couple of minutes). Later, he was admitted into the hospital and diagnosed with ligament damage, so tomorrow Kotoshogiku gets the freebie. Now, OK, Toyonoshima got injured and will go kyujo, shouganai, shit happens, but there were many people who really didn't like this (myself included).

I think Mike was slightly off when he said Kisenosato's dame-oshi was harmless and caused by the flow of the bout, it looked more like a message to me. Something like "Just retire already, you geezer!".  I'm not trying to be disrespectful to Kaio and his career here, it's just the way I think things happened, because there was a little delay between the actual moment Kisenosato won the bout and the moment of the extra push, it's like the Kid was hesitating a bit, then mustered the courage to do it. And back to Toyonoshima, Kaio needed a lot of charity to keep this rank for so long, only for this to happen? No, thanks. If I were Kaio, I'd submit my intai papers tomorrow (now watch him get his 8 again, with a bit of help down the stretch from the likes of Chiyotaikai and Kotomitsuki). Also, if I were Ama, I'd be scared shitless before tomorrow's bout (Ozeki or not, don't be surprised if he henkas like there's no tomorrow).

Anyway, moving on, whenever Kotooshu is facing the Biomass the fan in me can't help but worry, because the huge Estonian is just about the only guy in Ozumo the Bulgarian can't overpower on any given day (yes, I am saying Kotooshu is the second strongest guy in all sumo, too bad that's only true for the physical aspect, because mentally he's somewhere in Makushita). Still, Kotooshu has one important advantage over Bart, and that's sumo skill, that was painfully clear today (well, painful for the good doctor Mario, anyway). Both behemoths charged somewhat upright, Baruto with both arms to Kotooshu's chest and Kotooshu keeping his hips back, trying to avoid giving up the mawashi. Feeling the Estonian somewhat leaning on him, Kotooshu swiped downward at his left, evading to his own left at the same time, a move which had Bart trying to turn on a dime to keep his opponent in front of him. With his back at the straw, Baruto hunkered down and tried to dig into the tawara for extra support, but, surprise, surprise, he missed the dohyo's border by a few good inches and fell on his face with absolutely no help from the Bulgarian (they named the winning technique hikiotoshi, but there was no actual pulling from Kotooshu there, just shabby ring sense from Bart). And so both men now stand at 6 wins apiece, much to Mario's chagrin. In fact, I think he's still in his room, crying in a corner.

Now, remember the little analysis of that memorable 1996 kettei-sen I analyzed in the beginning? If you look closer at the two big guys, you'll notice that Takanonami and Baruto are very similar in size and weight, and even have similar styles (the over the shoulder uwate). The one thing that set them so far apart in terms of results, though, is skill. While Takanonami was a technical wizard and won more than a few bouts with spectacular trips and throws, Baruto is having a hard time keeping his ass inside the dohyo. Now imagine a rikishi with Bart's body and strength and Takanonami's word: invincible Dai-Yokozuna. But that's as likely to happen as yours truly becoming a porn star and having Jessica Biel for a fluffer ( that I think about it, I guess Bart has a pretty good shot after all).

The next bout was nowhere near as complicated, with Chiyotaikai destroying Takekaze with a burst of quick and well-placed tsuppari all over the face and upper chest. Not much to comment on, except that it was good to see Taikai make an effort (I think it has something to do with the new kid on the Ozeki block and Chiyotaikai's veteran pride). Kaze falls to 2-5 while his superior opponent improves to an unlikely 6-1 and is still on the provisional leader board (but with no real yusho chances).

Well, once a gambler, always a gambler. I couldn't help myself and made yet another win count related bet, this time on Yoshikaze and with Clancy. He's saying the smaller Kaze will win at least 5, while I'm saying he won't win more than 3, with 4 being a draw (I'll allow Clancy to present the gory details of the stakes in his report tomorrow). After watching his first week among the heavy hitters and knowing the competition will only get much worse from day 9 on, I have to confess I'm not too confident about winning right now. The little guy may have the body of a pony, but he sure has the cojones of a Shire horse. That was even clearer today, as he gave Asashoryu (you know, that Yokozuna guy who won 22 Yusho already?) a run for his money and quite a scare, even if for a moment. The hyper-caffeinated one hit the Yokozuna hard, head first, but he was barely able to budge him and was immediately driven back a step. Asashoryu followed through on that advance with some slaps, but Yoshikaze got a particularly mean looking one in, himself, before he ducked in the blink of an eye and actually got both hands inside...for half a millisecond, anyway, because the Yokozuna was way ahead of him and before he even realized he was in the favorable position, Asashoryu wrapped his right around his neck and deployed a lightning quick kubinage. The throw didn't finish Kaze off, but it did break his grip and had both wrestlers on the edge. Yoshikaze tried to keep pushing, but his charge was readily deflected by the technically superior Mongolian, sending the hapless jo'i rookie stumbling out of the dohyo.

I don't know what riled Asa up more, the fact that Yoshi slapped the living daylights out of him or that he gave him so much trouble overall, but he was clearly unhappy about something, because he gave the little guy a long, mean stare as he was returning to the dohyo. Kaze later admitted the Yokozuna was so scary that he completely avoided eye contact, but I bet he ain't afraid, because his actions in the ring speak volumes. 2-5 for the brave Oguruma slapper, while the Yokozuna survives the scare to move to a shaky but perfect 7-0.

Onward to the final fight of the day, I was expecting Hakuho to have to work hard for his win, you know, go a bit slow, fearing a henka, give up a little grip to Sneaky, etc., but it wasn't like that at all. The top rikishi lead with a perfectly placed left harite that deflected Aminishiki's head right into Hak's charging right shoulder, standing him completely upright. Almost instantly, the Mongolian got the left uwate and threw the bedazzled former Ajigawan over the bales, to his 4th loss. Nothing more to tell, it was simply perfect sumo form the Dai-Yokozuna, who stays perfect and a clear favorite for the Yusho.

It's safe to say this was one of the best days of sumo so far in this very exciting Hatsu basho, with a leader board packed with people who can actually impact the yusho race and a couple of young guys (Go and Oh) laying the wood to the scrubs. Of course, it's too early to tell how things will unravel, but some things are pretty damn clear already, like Ama and Kotomitsuki going kadoban (actually, I'm not completely sure about Ama, he might find hidden resources and eek out his 8, but I wouldn't bet the farm on that either). Kotooshu is having a one in ten basho where he's actually feeling confident, so that might make him a serious threat for Hak, but a breakdown in week two is also possible, Chiyotaikai is earning his pay by obliterating those ranked under him, as usual, Kaio is getting by and with 5 wins already he's well on his way out of kadoban (look for Chiyotaikai to defer meekly when they meet, should Kaio be a little short on shiroboshi), Baruto was a bit lucky to get the 6 wins he already has (but expect him to put up a fight against the Yokozunas).

But I'll let Clancy elaborate on all these existential dilemmas tomorrow, I have a new career to build.

Day 6 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
There's something about the Hatsu basho that always makes it a classic. The fellas surely get be burned out on sumo by the time Kyushu comes around each year, which probably accounts for the higher number of kyujo and dull yusho race in the end, but with the new year the rikishi seem to bring a new resolve, and it shows in the sumo. Yes, Harumafuji overestimated the pressure of his new rank, but he'll be back for Haru, and fortunately, there have been a handful of rikishi to step up in his place and keep things exciting.

The day led off with a compelling matchup between M14 Toyohibiki and M16 Homasho. Rewind back to day 1 when Toyohibiki absolutely kicked Koryu's ass prompting all of us to think, "wow, he's back". But then the Nikibi managed to drop four straight heading into today's contest. It wouldn't get better, and the problem is that Toyohibiki is shaken to the point where he can no longer commit on his sumo, which is to tsuppari while driving with the lower body. Toyohibiki came out today with the tsuppari all right, but he's legs were there to keep his balance, not to fuel any thrusts into Homasho, so Homie just stood his ground for about six seconds before perfectly timing an evasive maneuver while slapping the hapless Toyohibiki to the clay. Toyohibiki (1-5) has become too tentative for his own good sorta like Harumafuji this basho. Homasho is a cool 5-1.

M15 Yamamotoyama went for the quick left outer grip from the tachi-ai against M13 Koryu, and the Hutt thought he had it so he immediately took a step back to plant his stump before swinging Koryu around and out of the ring, but the only problem was his hand slipped off of Koryu's belt leaving the slug in a retreating position with nary a grip. He was such easy pickins at this point that even Koryu made it look easy finishing Yamamotoyama (2-4) off with some rapid-fire tsuppari.

M12 Kakizoe came into the day riding a nifty 3 bout winning streak, but he has yet to solve M14 Masatsukasa in previous meetings, and that would hold true again today as Zoe henka'd a bit to his left at the tachi-ai but didn't have a plan what he'd do with it. Masatsukasa (2-4) easily adjusted to the shift, grabbed the front of Kakizoe's belt with the right hand, and burrowed his head into Zoe's chest setting up the easy force-out charge from there. Kakizoe falls to 3-3.

M15 Tamanoshima had quietly posted a nifty 4-1 start coming in so why in the world would he need to henka M11 Iwakiyama at just 2-3? The answer is Tamanoshima didn't want the fight against the larger Hutt, so he just moved to his left and meekly put his hand on Iwakiyama's shoulder, but Iwakiyama did most of the work failing to stop his forward momentum as he just face-planted into the edge of the dohyo. What a cop-out on Tamanoshima's part as he's unworthy to stand at 5-1. Iwakiyama is 2-4.

In a fantastic bout, M11 Tochinoshin was a bit lackadaisical at the tachi-ai allowing M13 Tamawashi to lower his head and drive the Georgian dangerously back. Tochinoshin was fishing for moro-zashi the entire time banking on his strength advantage and the tawara to get it, but he was in too much trouble too soon and had to give up the quest and settle for the gappuri-migi-yotsu position (simultaneous right inners and left outers). NoShine bellied up to The Mawashi looking to turn the tables, but Tamawashi dug in enjoying the lower position he enjoyed from the tachi-ai, and it was the Mongolian who forced Tochinoshin to the tawara where a nice stretch of chikara-zumo was on display by both rikishi, but in the end, Tochinoshin had no place to go as Tamawashi wrenched him sideways and down to the dirt. This was easily Tamawashi's best sumo so far as both rikishi end up at 3-3.

M12 Tochiohzan grabbed the easy left outer grip at the tachi-ai against M10 Tokitenku who has really gotten soft in his approach. Oh immediately went for a dashi-nage move throwing Tokitenku off balance and setting up his right hand on the front of Tokitenku's belt after some weak resistance. Tochiohzan went for the kill straightway, and even though Tokitenku had managed moro-zashi in the end, Tochiohzan's position and footwork was too good to overcome. Like Michael Jackson who use to bait kids with his zoo and Neverland ranch, this was man against boy as Tochiohzan moves to 6-0. Problem is...we need to see Tochiohzan do this man on man higher in the ranks. Until then, no stiffie from me. Tokitenku is a paltry 2-4.

If Tosanoumi and Chiyohakuho clashed in a forest with no one around, would anyone care? Just in case, the two rikishi with similar styles traded tsuppari and pull attempts before Chuck actually had Tosanoumi pushed back to the edge, but he wasted the momentum with another pull attempt that allowed Tosanoumi to not only get back into the bout but obtain the morozashi position as well. From there it was curtains as Tosanoumi (2-4) enjoyed the easy yori-kiri win. Chiyohakuho (3-3) limped back down the hanamichi revealing perhaps a set of gimpy legs.

M8 Asasekiryu showed good pop at the tachi-ai against M10 Tochinonada standing the Gently Giant upright and completely exposing his left side. Sexy grabbed the quick right outer grip and wasting no time planted his leg and unleashed a shweet throw of his larger opponent about three seconds in. This was great stuff from Asasekiryu, so why is he still only 3-3? Nada shares the same mark.

M8 Kakuryu took the early control against M6 Bushuyama leading with some effective tsuppari that drove Bushuyama back near the tawara, but Dolly countered beautifully with an inashi move pushing at Kakuryu's right side that sent the Mongolian off balance a bit. Now it was Dolly's turn to drive opponent back to what looked like an easy oshi-dashi win, but The Kak was in control the whole way deftly spurting to his side at the last moment while pulling Bushuyama forward and out of the dohyo. Kakuryu improves to 5-1 with the win, but I can't say his sumo has been great. The Dolly-yama is 1-5.

Look at M7 Hokutoriki playing the role of Lil' Yokozuna again today against M5 Futenoh. Hokutoriki committed to his tsuppari from the tachi-ai, and after standing Futenoh upright with a moro-te charge, he drove with his legs pushing Fruitenoh back to the straw and off the dohyo completely in a matter of seconds. I actually enjoy watching Hokutoriki when he does this kind of sumo, and don't look now, but he's 5-1. Futenoh stumbles to 2-4 and prolly can't wait to get back to more reverent parts.

Back on day 2, M5 Takamisakari was pounded by Aran after flinching at the tachi-ai and putting his final fist down before he was ready. He did the exact same thing today against M7 Dejima, and while the former Ozeki took advantage immediately driving the Cop back to edge, Dejima seemed to run out of steam allowing Takamisakari to get his right arm deep on the inside of Dejima's left while sufficiently planting his leg allowing Takamisakari to swing Dejima around to where the Dejyptian's back was now to the tawara. From there it was easy peasy as Takamisakari evened his record at 3-3. Dejima falls to the same mark.

In an entertaining affair if for nothing other than political reasons, M6 Aran seized the early advantage against M4 Kokkai charging low and looking to gain moro-zashi. Aran got his right arm deep on the inside while the two flirted for position on the other side. Failing to take any sorta advantage of his date, Kokkai executed a maki-kae bringing his left arm from the outside in, but Aran's lower position was too good to overcome. As Aran mounted his force-out attack, Kokkai brought his left arm up in desperation and wrapped it around Aran's neck, but the position obtained by the Russian at the start proved the difference in the end. You love to see the rikishi with the better tachi-ai use that advantage throughout and pick up the win, which is exactly what Aran (3-3) did today. Kokkai falls to 2-4.

I think I slightly underestimated M2 Yoshikaze prior to the basho. Don't get me 1-4 coming in his record was no surprise, but the Caffeinated one has shown a lot more resolve and fighting spirit at this level than I thought he was capable of. That spunk showed today against M4 Wakanosato as Yoshikaze dictated the pace the entire way with his feisty tsuppari attack. Wakanosato is so stubby, it's hard for a lightweight like Cafe to force him back entirely, but Croconosato just gave this one away by going for a pulldown when he wasn't in trouble. Yoshikaze read the move like a dirty manga on the subway, and easily pushed his compromised opponent back and out for the win. Both rikishi sit at 2-4.

In the Sekiwake ranks, Aminishiki took complete control at the start against M1 Kotoshogiku slipping into the moro-zashi position and adding insult to injury by using Kotoshogiku's signature move--the gaburi yori belly shoves--against him to force him back across the straw. This one was too easy as Ami moves to 3-3. The Geeku is still an o'fer, which makes Harumafuji's win against him yesterday less impressive.

And speaking of the said Harumafuji, one of the last rikishi the Ozeki wanted to see in week 1 after his 1-4 start was M3 Goeido, who made Harumafuji his ama the last coupla basho. The trend would continue in Hatsu as Goeido drove his head into Harumafuji's right should standing the Ozeki largely upright and rendering his moro-te tachi-ai useless, and quicker than you could say kadoban, Goeido seized the front of Harumafuji's belt with his left hand, forced his opponent in tight so their bellies touched, and then drove the Ozeki back and out without argument. The was a perfect example of Goeido's vice-grip yori attack where if he can grab a frontal belt grip and pull his opponent in close to him, he uses his gut like no other to lift his opponent ever so slightly upright while pulling with that frontal grip before using his legs to drive his foe back and out. No one can overcome that position, especially an Ozeki who came into the basho cocky and over-anxious.

Hey, I expected Harumafuji to win 12 and roll as he has the previous few tournaments, but Clancy said it well in his day 1 reminding us that Harumafuji hasn't been exempt in using fishy tachi-ai to get gain. And how soon did most of us forget his slow start in Kyushu and dealio with Hakuho down the stretch to cement the promotion? The problem with Harumafuji is two-fold this basho. First, the banzuke is awesome. There's hardly a slouch within shouting distance of the top, and Harumafuji is learning that the hard way. Second, the ease with which he achieved the rank caused a mental let-down this basho. Remember, Asashoryu makes everyone better around him just by showing up, and he wasn't around for the last half of 2008. Harumafuji will be fine even if he goes kadoban for Haru, a likely scenario. He should beat Tenho tomorrow, and he'll likely get Takekaze on Sunday...maybe Wakanosato but both are a walk in the park this basho. He has to enter next Monday at 3-5 when he'll start a stretch against Bart, the other four Ozeki, and the two Yokozuna. I don't see how Harumafuji doesn't lose 2 out of 3 to Bart and the two Yokozuna, so he's down to his last straw in Hatsu. As for Goeido, he's off to a stealthy 5-1 start that shows he fights much better when out of the limelight.

Ozeki Kaio was up against a huge test today in Komusubi Kisenosato, and it showed as the Kid crushed the aging Ozeki at the tachi-ai driving with his left shoulder as he looked for the early right outer grip. He didn't get the uwate, but his angle of attack kept Kaio completely away from his coveted right outer position, and before Kaio could adjust, Kisenosato used some deadly tsuppari into the Ozeki's upper body and neck to drive him completely back and across the tawara in seconds before the Kid used a final dame-oshi shove to knock Kaio off the dohyo completely. The move was no harm no foul as a rikishi as fired up as the Komusubi was today can't help but admire his bidness after a win like this with an extra shove. After an 0-3 start, Kisenosato improves to 3-3 with three straight wins over Ozeki. Kaio falls to 4-2 and still has some work cut out for him. To his credit, I thought he'd be worse than he has been. There's still hope for those eight wins, but no more than that. Too many people need help this basho.

Ozeki Kotooshu looked to restore a bit of order for his rank against M2 Miyabiyama. The Sheriff's charge was as weak as they come, and he merely put both hands at Kotooshu's shoulders failing to offer a shove as he actually retreated a half step. Kotooshu led with a right hari-te and looked for a belt grip, but with Miyabiyama not putting up a fight and actually moving backwards, Kotooshu just went with the flow and pulled the hapless M2 down to the dirt in the center of the ring. There was no shame in this pull-down; the Ozeki wisely took what was given to him as he stops his losing streak at one ending the day at a swell 5-1. Miyabiyama is already resigned to his fate at 1-5.

The Sheriff is probably in cahoots with M1 Kyokutenho cause the Chauffeur isn't showing much effort himself. Today against Ozeki Chiyotaikai, Tenho offered little resistance as the Ozeki used a nice head-butt at the tachi-ai followed by a few shoves that sent Kyokutenho back so far so fast that Chiyotaikai actually had the room to get his arm on the inside and defeat Kyokutenho by yori-kiri. Great stuff from Taikai who won't flirt for the yusho, but at 5-1 is doing what he needs to in order to guarantee those eight wins as soon as possible. Kyokutenho is 1-5.

Polishing off the Ozeki, Sekiwake Baruto did just that against Kotomitsuki. Hit and Mitsuki actually delivered a good tachi-ai slamming into Baruto's upper body, but Bart showed how scary he can be by standing there largely upright while fishing for any sorta grip on the Ozeki's belt. When the dust settled, Baruto got the left outer grip and followed that up with a right grip on the front of the Ozeki's belt. Kotomitsuki is the best in the business at shaking off his opponent's uwate, and he wrenched at the Estonian's outer grip several times, but Baruto couldn't be budged. The Estonian showed great timing in attacking just after that attempt by Kotomitsuki where he expended some energy because the force-out charge was swift and inevitable as Baruto threw the Ozeki over at the edge for the easy uwate-nage win not to mention a 6-0 start. Shirasaki Announcer in the booth for NHK said it best after the bout when he stated, "He has become a force to be reckoned with." Damn straight. And the scary thing is Baruto's hasn't come close to reaching his potential. His sumo is still unpolished, and he's relying too much on his sheer size to win. It's when he learns to use his size not to counter but to attack that he will be nigh unto unstoppable. Kotomitsuki is pals with Harumafuji at 1-5.

In the Yokozuna ranks, M2 Takekaze actually shifted to his left against Hakuho in a slight henka move, and it threw the Yokozuna off balance for a second, but Hakuho recovered straightway and used his long arms to feel out his opponent who couldn't retreat around the perimeter of the ring fast enough. When it became evident that Takekaze could run but not hide, Hakuho put his left paw at the back of Takekaze's head and looked to briefly pull him down by the hair, but he adjusted mid pull legally sending Takekaze to the dirt using a one-arm pull that was too easy. This was an awkward bout thanks to Takekaze's henka, but I can honestly say it wasn't as awkward as Mark's posting the pic of that elephant's fifth leg yesterday. Damn. Anyway, all is well today as Hakuho moves to 6-0 with the win. Takekaze falls to 2-4.

The most anticipated bout of the day featured Yokozuna Asashoryu against Komusubi Toyonoshima, a rikishi who has had the Yokozuna's number the last few basho. But remember Asashoryu in his prime...when he'd lose to a guy and then take it out of his ass during keiko or the next time they met at a hon-basho? That's the Asashoryu who showed up today much to Toyonoshima's chagrin as the Yokozuna stuck his left paw into Toyonoshima's throat at the tachi-ai forcing his head to stare at the Kokugikan rafters. Never letting go of the choke hold, Asashoryu used his other arm to push the Komusubi back and just drove with the lower body sending Toyonoshima back and off the dohyo in about three seconds. The ass-kicking was so complete that Asashoryu didn't even bother to stop in the halls of the Kokugikan afterwards to watch his handiwork replayed on the monitor. Considering that Toyonoshima was injured coming in, you can't just say "Asashoryu is back" after this bout, but we sure saw shades of Genghis' former self today starting from his concentration coming into the bout against an opponent who had defeated him previously to the wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am execution on the dohyo to the badass walk past the monitors on his way to the bath. Yes, Asashoryu is good for sumo.

On that note, the Hatsu basho is shaping up to be a barnburner. You have both Yokozuna undefeated with Asashoryu quickly regaining his form; you have Baruto establishing himself amongst the elite; and don't forget about Kotooshu whose looking very good as well. And if Goeido can stay hot...tis icing on the cake.

Martin deals tomorrow.

Day 5 Comments (Mark Arbo reporting)
Greetings and Happy New Year fellow Earthlings, cats, dogs and celestial visitors. Good news! After a lot of pestering and unintelligible soliloquies about systems, routers, Linksys, Gs and Bs, our geekier IT type writers have finally coerced the hotel into installing wireless internet. There was only ever one reason any of us wanted it in the first place and that is, of course, so we can write these reports from the comfort of the onsen! That's right this report's coming at you au natural. Martin is a "little" "shy", but other than him I am completely surrounded by our writers, all as naked as I am, as I type this very sentence. The Good Dr. keeps saying, "Hey, let's have some more Sake and see where this goes." I'm not quiet sure what he means by that, but I have bigger fish to fry right now...and by "fish to fry", I, of course, mean "tell you about sumo". 

Just watching Yamamotoyama go through the preflight rituals I could tell he was going to get his ass kicked by Mongolian Tamawashi. Walking alone seemed like effort enough. That is just too much weight on humble knees and ankles. Tamawashi had a great tachi-ai, got inside quickly and forced the whale out easily. Yamas did attempt a half assed throw at the straw, but most throws take a lot more balance and flexibility than the Mountain can muster. He is young and may (or may not) find some sort of Makuuchi groove but when your 600 pounds, 24's middle age.

At the tachi-ai Kakizoe took a surprising and disappointing side step and delivered a solid right to M16 Homasho. From there a shoving battle ensued. Homasho seemed content to trade thrusts, but Kakizoe was clearly the aggressor. Taking a strong right to the shoulder Homie lost his footing and dropped to the clay. Both guys are 3-2. 

Tamanoshima and Tochinoshin came in with just one loss a peace. After punching himself in every conceivable body part Tamanoshima charged Tochinoshin. Unfortunately, instead of a sweet-ass throw like he did yesterday, today Shin, already backpedaling, went for a pull that just increased his backward momentum and he sped out of the ring. 

Mt. Iwaki and Masatsukasa came in with only one win apiece but gave us a funner match anyway. Today after a thundering tachi-ai the two jockeyed for hand positions. Moon-Face went for a throw that didn't topple Masa but did start moving him backwards. As Masatsukasa was about to step out Iwaki lost his footing and began falling to the dohyo. But Iwaki's free arm was glued to his chest and Masa stepped out an instant before Iwaki hit the ground. Classy win for an ugly man.

Tokitenku and Toyohibiki also have only been able to pick up a couple of wins between them. Today after getting creamed at the tachi-ai, Toki grabbed Biki's belt in front with his left and used his right to unleash a flurry of pulls to the back of the head that sent Biki first, off balance and later, somersaulting to the clay from what was ruled a shitatedashinage.

After coasting for a year Tochiohzan has emerged from his slumber and as the only rikishi below the sanyaku to remain undefeated through day 4. Today after a false start he met Tosanoumi and began pushing. I don't think Ohzan came in looking to pull but, when Umi leaned way in, the pull presented it's self and made for an easy win. 

Tochinonada also leaned in a bit further than he should of and gave Kakuryu his 4th win.

Whenever Hokutoriki is ranked low enough to pick up a few wins he struts around with the all pride and regality of a well hung Yokozuna wearing new shoes. This basho has been no exception as Riki has been parading around with his chest puffed out and laying the beats on the mind Makuuchi. Today Mini-zuna just steamrolled the steamroller; overpowering Dejima (still no easy feat) and pushing him straight back and out. Unfortunately Riki took a painful looking finger to the eye in the process. Let's home his retina hasn't detached.

After showing Tosanoumi the Russian-Two-Step yesterday, today Aran tried to take Asassecretary at the belt. He couldn't. With a deep inside right and an outside left, the Secretary almost lifted Aran off the ground as he forced him out. This was as motivated as the Mongolian has looked in a couple of basho.

Futenoh had no answer for Super Awesome Clown Power this time. After an awkward tachi-ai Takami executed a lightning fast makikae taking a double inside grip and quickly powering Futenoh out. These guys have a couple of wins a piece.

Ever notice how no one henkas Takamisakari? He brings so much kensho money that you would think people would be henkaing him all the time to try and get a quick buck. Strange, eh? Any theories?

Kokkai and Buxom Bushuyama each took inside lefts from the tachi-ai and after a struggle Kokkai stepped back and pulled Bosomyama into the sand and his 4th loss

Goeido pounced on Miyabiyama and forced him back as fast as Miyabi could move his beat up legs. But Goeido was pulled down as Mt. Miyabi exited the ring and a rater long mono-ii was called. I thought that they would redo this one because it was (at least for me) hard to tell how things all went down from the replay but head judge Takanohana gave it straight up to Goeido. Miyabi 1-4, Goeido 4-1.

From the tachi-ai Toyonoshima got a double inside grip on Baruto. Bart responded with a surprisingly smooth makikae taking an inside left. Toyonoshima did his best to stay in it but he may as well have been pushing against the tide. Bart kept Shima in close and worked him backward and out past the straw. Bart's sumo is still often sloppy but he is making fewer mistakes and freakish Sampson-like strength, more often than not, covers up for the odd technical blunder. You have to think that, if he isn't in one right now, an Ozeki run is soon coming. Can we have a banzuke that is half Ozeki? Just the sanyaku will take the entire last hour. The Yokozuna will start fighting Ozeki late in week one...

Kyokutenho also somehow gave a double inside grip to Kaio who after a modest struggle backed the Mongol out. Brace yourself for Kaio to pick up 8 unlikely but surprisingly easy victories and 7 losses that make you think, "How did he ever pick up those 8 wins?" 

Kotooshu is another dude who may be immerging from a long foggy stroll down the path of mediocrity. Starting 4-0 is improvement enough, but these have been 4 quality wins. He has shown patents and tact and is fighting like a true Ozeki. Ahhh but there is a monkey on his back, a dirty little smelly monkey. Coming into today Aminishiki had only one win (coming by way of henka of course) but he is still a rikishi who has had his way with Shu over and over again, so a win here would really give embattled Kotooshu a mental boost as well as keep him tied for the lead. So what do you think happened? Yup, the little bastard henkaed. No pride, no shame only henka. Koto looked to be recovering (he even seemed to have a double inside) but everyone knows that Aminishiki is to Shu what the Overlook Hotel was to Jack Torrance. Shu lost it and Aminishiki led him around the ring with an outside right like a lost puppy before (mercifully) showing him the door. So it's back to the Funny Farm for Shu and, with 2 wins and 3 henkas, elephant sodomy would be too good for Lil'Rozan.

As is their way, jazz hands have been in full effect in the first week. But today Chiyo had a stiffer test in Kisenosato and, as is his way, he failed. Chiyo did attempt to get the hands going but Kisenosato knew what was coming and what he had to do. He pushed through to get his hands on Chiyo and push him out for an easy win. So Chiyo starts his loosing right on schedule and Kissy, while far from dominating, is doing what he needs to weather a tough week one and put himself in a position to snatch a KK come senshuraku.

Much of the blame for Mitsuki's bad start has been placed on "The Gout". While I had no idea what it was, I always thought The Gout was something only really old people got. Perhaps only old Jewish people.  Like scurvy, The Black Lung and shingles, I'm not sure I even knew it still existed. The "The" in "The Gout" really distinguishes it too. It's not "a" gout, no no this is THE Gout. We don't say "The Cancer" or "The Crabs" (Right Clancy?), but this is THE Gout. Turns out, The Gout is a form of arthritis where uric crystals (sounds like something you might be able to pick up on the home shopping channel) attach themselves to tendons and cartilage and make things pretty bloody unpleasant for the patient (Jewish or not).

Today Mitsuki had another solid tachi-ai and backed Wakanosato up but Sato evaded at the straw and started a pull down that sent them dancing across the dohyo till Mitsuki lost his footing and dropped. Mitsuki seems to be moving ok. Perhaps he is just rusty. He hasn't been able to methodically draw his opponents into those long boring stalemates in the center of the ring and instead is loosing quick chaotic free-for-alls.

Some guy who looks a lot like Ama has been stinking up the place this basho. Today, as the fans chanted "Ganbatte!" Harumafuji finally picked up a win as he grabbed morozashi from the tachi-ai and backed the Geek out. Ama never had that easy a bout with Kotoshogiku. Don't be too surprised to see Gout Boy and this Ama imposter Katoban a week or so from now.

Asashoryu look cautious but fought well against Takekaze. Kaze came out looking to push but hadn't the skill, straight or speed to keep the Yokozuna from passing his defenses and taking an inside right/outside left. Shoryu briefly bent over and buried his head in Kaze's throat and then standing back up, used the outside left grip throw the M3 over his left leg.

At this point Asashoryu has been as lucky as he has good. But his confidence and sumo (inseparable) have shown a marked improvement every time he has stepped on the dohyo and he could well threaten Hak for the Yusho (Asashoryu is the only rikishi I have ever seen who can improve that much over the course of a basho). If this keeps up we are in for an exciting second week; the sport and the fans sure deserve it.

For his first date with a Yokozuna, Yoshikaze didn't embarrass himself. But if Asashoryu has been equal parts lucky and good, Yokozuna Hakuho is just really really good. Like a kid trying to escape a hug form an overly zealous Grandma, Yoshikaze pushed off and danced to every corner of the ring. But the love of a Grandma knows no boundaries or obstacles and she gathered him in quick enough. Perhaps more than being thrown, Yoshikaze just crumbled to the ground in sweet surrender to a love that he was foolish to fear in the first place.

Tomorrows highlights include, Russia and Georgia renewing hostilities, the latest installment in the very promising Ama/Goeido rivalry and Mike asking you how many seasons your country has (but only after explaining that Japan has 4).

Day 4 Comments (Kenji Heilman reporting)
Happy New Year everybody. We're off and running in 2009- unbelievable. The years seem to speed up as I get older. Anyway, the mild surprises thus far in the Hatsu basho seem to have continued through day 4. Let's take a look from the top down. 

Hakuho (no surprise here) took care of business against M1 Kotoshogiku (0-4) to stay perfect at 4-0. Actually Giku put up a good fight, even showcasing his trademark gaburi-yori along the way, but in the end Hakuho prevailed with an uwatenage. 

Asashoryu's unblemished record, on the other hand, has been one of the mild surprises. Today he snatched another win out of the jaws of defeat. In a bad "content" day, Sho was too erect at the tachi-ai and then to make matters worse pulled back, which gave all the momentum to M2 Miyabiyama (1-3). All Miyabi had to do was not fall face down 'ala Tosanoumi and he almost certainly looked good for an oshi-dashi. But it was Sho's circus-like agility at the tawara that extended his shaky undefeated record to 4-0. My take on Sho is that he is indeed rusty. But with every passing victory (shaky or not), he is building confidence to go along with that unmatched concentration and resolve. It's a formula that could shape up to be deadly by basho's end. 

After Harumafuji's surprising third straight loss yesterday to open his Ozeki campaign, I said to myself "I bet he ditches that new silver mawashi". Honest, I really did. And what do you know, he came out in the trusty black today. Unfortunately it didn't help him. In one of the more intriguing match-ups of the day, two solid rikishi off to terrible starts got together in Harumafuji and Komusubi Kisenosato. Haru greeted Kise with a nodowa as he does fairly regularly but again today fell easily to a ho-hum inashi from the opponent. Kisenosato picks up his first win to go 1-3, while Harumafuji's nightmare debut continues at 0-4. It's all mental now. He just needs a win to erase all the doubt building up in his psyche. 

In a stark contrast from the previous match-up, surprisingly undefeated Kaio took on undefeated Sekiwake Baruto in another anticipated bout. This was a slow, power affair fought at the belt won by the younger, stronger Baruto. Despite locking into hidari-yotsu, Baruto disallowed Kaio from getting the right uwate, a key to his yori-kiri win. Baruto is 4-0, Kaio 3-1. 

Kotomitsuki, not at his best after fighting gout prior to the basho, continued to struggle against M1 Kyokutenho (1-3). It was almost too easy for Tenho to get his preferred left uwate and go on for an easy yori-kiri win. With Mitsuki now at 1-3, do we have a default kyujo and our next kadoban Ozeki in the works? 

Kotooshu is moving well this basho. Today he took on a pesky Oguruma grappler for the second consecutive day in M3 Takekaze (2-2). Oshu matched Take's low point of attack and grabbed a handful of left uwate on the way to a strong yori-kiri win. He improves to 4-0. 

And so far so good for Chiyotaikai, who is also 4-0. But we've seen this many times before where he blows through the first half with flying colors. That said, he does look good as he handled Yoshikaze with relative ease with his trademark tsuki-oshi. 

Down in the ranks, M12 Tochiohzan looks good at 4-0 with a big win over big pusher Toyohibiki (1-3). 

Let's see how the polar opposite trends being generated by Harumafuji and Asashoryu pans out. It looks like we may be in for pretty interesting basho.

Day 3 Comments (Dr. Mario Kadastik reporting)
Well, I don't know what Mike thought about the Girders and Barrels as I'm not that much into engineering. But while talking about top and bottom I'd like to say that the lower part of the torikumi (with the lower ranked guys) proved a disappointment to me in many ways as quite a lot of bouts got a surprise winner (at least for me). I'm especially disappointed in a few seriously under-ranked guys who should have just kicked ass, but what the hell. When I was preparing for the basho and reading all the keiko reports I was already expecting an interesting basho with Harumafuji showing everyone what he can do at his new rank (his keiko results were pretty good too), Asa being back after a long time and a number of other guys ranked at odd positions, which promised some nice ass-kicking to come. To say it politely I'd have to say that some of them have been quite a disappointment. Yet it's still day three so instead of yammering around let's get to the bouts in chronological order. 

So the first bout of the Makuuchi today featured the double pimple mountain Yamamotoyama facing a veteran Tamanoshima. Both stood at half the points coming in and to be honest after that fast dismantling of Toyohibiki yesterday I fully expected Tamanoshima to get a beating. As the two charged one could see how inertia is fully in favor of the double mountain. As a quick reminder from high-school physics momentum is a product of mass and velocity so if YMY is 50% heavier he'll also gain that in his momentum. For the other guy to compensate he has to essentially straddle a booster rocket to gain 50% more speed in such a short distance. So Yabba immediately stopped Tama in his tracks and took the fight to the tawara, however Tama isn't a veteran for nothing as he quickly ran sideways along the tawara forcing the big mountain to run in a circle. Now back to that physics reminder, if a body wants to move in a circular track it has to overcome that said inertia and the force that he must exert is proportional to mass. So from simple physics we can say that as long as you want to fight YMY you just have to make him go in circles. Seems Tama was given a quicky in basic physics too as he nicely evaded that first charge and as Yabba charged again moved to his right just at the tawara allowing the momentum to carry the mountain of pimples, muscles and fat to its doom. Tamanoshima improves to 2-1 while Yabba will feel it tough at 1-2 as the guys in Makuuchi are there for a reason. 

Well when I was considering who will do good and who will be bad this basho I was definitely keeping an eye on Homasho who has been underachieving due to the wrist injuries so I assumed he'll open a nice can of whoopass on Koryu today, but I was wrong. Koryu is a pusher-thruster and that's exactly what he did, he charged hard with his tsuppari and was able to keep Homey at bay. Homey did manage to get a few swoops through and slowly was moving Koryu back, but not out. At some point he seemed to be just about winning the bout when he went for a pulldown, but Koryu survived it and in turn charged into Homey. What happened was that Koryu somewhat missed Homasho and while Homey tried to pivot and thrust Koryu down he did so without any thought on what his feet were doing. So the bout ended with about a meter between the guys with Homasho awkwardly stumbling and putting his hand down. They did call it hikiotoshi, but I didn't see any hand pulling, just an off balance Homasho, who now is 2-1. Koryu is probably going to have wet dreams about how closely he evaded losing today to get his first "victory". 

I had been pretty suspicious about Masatsukasa from last basho, but Martin has been pestering me about how good Masa is that I decided to keep an open mind. The bout started a bit awkwardly with Tamawashi looking to have a better position from the tachi-ai. Masa looked like a small abused boy looking at the abuser with his head hunched down and trying to get it on the mawashi's breast. He did manage to get his left hand below Tamawashi's armpit and while backpedaling grabbed the back of his opponents head with his right hand and went for an under-shoulder swing down. The bout initially didn't look too good, but the execution of the swing was very nice. Well I'm not yet convinced on Masatsukasa and would like to see him kick ass more before I make up my mind as at the moment I still see him as mediocre at best in low Makuuchi. Both walked away with 1-2 and probably can't be too happy about the start. 

In the next match I fully expected that a totally under-ranked Toyohibiki would make Kakizoe warm and fuzzy ... somewhere below the dohyo, but it wasn't to be. Kakizoe is a round and fast bullet, who had one concrete plan for today. That plan was to be anywhere else, but in front of Hibiki. Immediately at the tachi-ai he moved to his left and when Hibiki turned and recharged, he went for a pulldown, that didn't work so he evaded again and did the whole practice again a few times. Hibiki never really got his footing and balance to work so in the end although he was the attacker throughout the bout he didn't have the balance to go on indefinitely. At one of the evasions Kaki managed to get away late enough that the momentum carried Toyohibiki out while Kakizoe tiptoed the tawara just in front of Takanohana only to step out a fraction of a second after Hibiki made contact with matter outside the dohyo. It was close at normal speed and at first I expected a mono-ii as did the NHK commentators, but seems that Takanohana had it happen so close in front of him that none was necessary. For the results just look at what I wrote for the previous match. I don't really know much about detached retinas, but I sure hope Toyohibiki improves as he's facing Tochiohzan tomorrow who isn't looking bad at all. 

Speaking of Tochiohzan, he has looked good this basho and is fighting like he should be and hopefully will be moving up the ranks to see how he fights among better opposition. Today he faced Iwakiyama the moonface who had a small respite in Juryo after his injury two basho ago. Considering their previous meetings were three to one in Oh Poo's favor I fully expected him to get the win. As they charged Iwaki tried to go for his favorite hidari-yotsu grip, but didn't get it. In the end they both settled for right hand inside and left hand outside grip where Tochiohzan seemed to have a stronger hold. Once Tochi had secured his grip he immediately went for an overarm throw which he complemented with pulling on the back of Iwaki's head with his right hand. It was a nice throw considering the weight of Iwakiyama, so good stuff from Tochiohzan, who has yet to lose one this basho. Iwakiyama is 1-2 and will hopefully get the kachi koshi over the basho as I really like him around the M10 rank. 

I mentioned in the beginning, that I wasn't too happy about the outcome of the lower Maegashira bouts and the next one is definitely one of them. Tochinoshin was M4 and got a 3-12 which dropped him low to M11, but he did show solid sumo among the top dogs so I fully expect him to do some carnage around the low/middle Maegashira ranks and Tokitenku has yet to get a kachi-koshi of late. The charge was good and equal from both sides which stopped them square in the middle of the dohyo. Tokitenku nicely negated No-shine's right arm with his left and moved his right arm to Tochi's back at the same time slightly pivoting to his right and going for a pull by using both the right hand on Shin's back and left hand gripping the upper arm. The move was executed beautifully and so fast that Tochinoshin had a "WTF happened?" look on his face like a virgin after the first time which ended in three seconds. Today Tochi didn't shine, but he lost because of Tokitenku's experience and hopefully learns from it. He'll rebound nicely and be back in the upper echelons soon enough. 2-1 for shin and 1-2 for the slow-slider. 

The next bout features two veterans who hadn't met since Kyushu 2007. Tosanoumi has had a few stints in Juryo and even though their last few meetings were won by Tosanoumi I doubt it has much merit as it's been well over a year and Tochinonada was determined to prove that point. Both charged hard and Tochinonada managed to force Tosanoumi upright, but couldn't finish as he lost his grip on the mawashi. After a short struggle they separated and charged again and as neither got an advantageous grip they just did it a second time. This time it worked for Nada who got a nice left uwate and immediately used it and the right hand on Tosanoumi's head to send Tosanoumi to the dirt with an uwatenage throw. Tochinonada joins the club of those without losses while Tosanoumi falls to 1-2. Yet it's still only day three so nothing decided yet. 

Now I have never really watched American pro wrestling where you have a lot of clowning and pure show, but the next bout between Chiyohakuho and Kakuryu the fishface did look a bit theatrical. Though Kakuryu has been looking good this basho it seems that he came to today's matchup without a real plan and throughout this bizarre match he was doing what the French do during warfare - retreat. Yohak did all he could and pushed and thrust, was evaded, pushed and thrust and getting evaded (repeat this cycle 4-5 times) with plenty of oohs and aahs coming from the crowd as it looked at least four times that the match is over with one stumbling down or out, but they always managed to recover and go at it again. After about a minute or so of this pretty comical show across all the different parts of the dohyo Yohak finally managed to get a decent push at Kakuryu sending the Mongolian staggering to the tawara while he himself did the same about a meter and half away. Won the guy who managed to keep his balance longest and this time it was Yohak the attacker. It was called oshidashi as the win resulted from Chiyohakuho's thrusts, but during the actual moment of winning they had a good two meters of separation and moving in different directions. Both continue into day four with two wins, but the total lack of offensive from Kakuryu today doesn't bode well for him in the days to come. 

Asasekiryu, who is ranked lower than one would expect from him hasn't really shown that in terms of kicking ass in the first two days. At the same time Hokutoriki had done everything right and was coming in today at 2-0. However sexy didn't plan to go on winless and managed to get into his favorite position of left hand inside, head resting below his opponents and ass as far away from Hokutoriki's hands as possible. However his first attempt at a yorikiri win failed miserably as Hokutoriki managed to swap his outside non-grip to an inside non-grip. Asasexy did have Hokutoriki totally upright, but seemed to totally miss the power and support from his lower body so the struggle continued for a while. Finally after slightly stepping back he was able to break the stalemate and get also a right hand grip at the front of Jokester's mawashi which meant curtains for Hokutoriki as Sexy escorted him back and out. It was a win, but it wasn't as solid as I would have expected from Asasekiryu. I hope it was just a slow day or someone messed up the morning chanko. Hokutoriki is 2-1 with Sexy finally getting his first and going to day four with 1-2. 

The freight train Dejima and the sole Russian Aran had met once before during last basho and if I remember right. Then, Dejima ran Aran off the dohyo like he usually does when he gets his train rolling. Aran did charge hard into the Degyptian and was able to halt his momentum for a moment only to be pushed back, where he didn't manage to keep his legs and the rest of his body in sync and slowly folded below Dejima. Ouch. It didn't seem like he got an injury as his legs didn't really get bent that awkwardly as we have seen for example Baruto when he re-injured himself at the hands of Kotoshogiku, but it didn't look pleasant either. 2-1 for the train and 1-2 for Aran. 

Futenoh has been looking good this basho. Even though he dropped one he has been fighting like a maniac and actually looked good so far. Bushuyama has been what one would expect from him, nothing spectacular and nothing overly awful either. So I wasn't really surprised when Futenoh managed to quickly turn Bush's right hand inside grip to nothing usable, not that his own right was doing anything useful being essentially on the left shoulder of Bush, nowhere close to the mawashi. With both having only a feeble left hand grip (with Bush not even having a grip on the belt), the struggle took a while with neither one capable of mounting an attack. Finally after resting a while in the middle of the dohyo Fruity charged with gabburi-yori and Bush didn't have what it takes to get humped and not move back. A yorikiri win for Futenoh, who was in charge throughout the bout and will continue with a 2-1 score. Bush continues with just one win like so many others...

Yesterday it was Robocop, who had a false start, today it was his opponent. Kokkai must have been glad that the gyoji called it back as he'd have been in serious trouble if the bout had been let go. Well not that it mattered in the end. Both charged, a struggle followed during which Kokkai tried to create some separation by pushing hard and leaning in, which Takamisakari immediately used to thrust the Georgian down. Solid win by the cop as Kokkai really screwed up that one. He was the one on the offensive and had Takamisakari moving back, but decided to get more separation, maybe to prepare for a pulldown that would have followed, but over-committed himself as his balance came only from pushing Takamisakari. Both have one win to go on, which isn't really all that much. 

Takekaze has had an odd start to the basho with first a quick loss to Baruto who essentially pushed hard once on him to send him tumbling off the dohyo to then follow up with a quick win over Kotomitsuki. Wakanosato on the other hand has had a terrible start and seems slow and without any real stamina, so I wasn't expecting much from the Barometer today. Takekaze charged hard and then immediately tried to go for a pulldown. Why does he do that? What followed was a solid yotsu sumo where Takekaze had a very good and solid grip and fought a good bout finishing Wakanosato off with a yorikiri win. I mean the pulldown is risky and cheap, why do you do it when you can deliver such a nice and solid yotsu battle? Anyway, the Barometer continues to show an absolute zero while Takekaze now has two solid wins. 

Next up was the bout I was waiting for and not only because I'm from Estonia and root for Baruto, but a match between Kisenosato and him is something to be waiting for as it can promise a good and solid sumo match. Both knew that there's not gonna be a henka and charged hard. After the initial charge both men got the hidari-yotsu grip which promised a good fight. Baruto was a bit too upright, but decided to fix his position by lifting up Kisenosato to force the Japanese to lose his balance and as soon as he dropped him back down went for a maki-kae attempt on his right hand. That maneuver however cost him his balance and he was easily driven back by Kisenosato. Luckily for Bart, Kise wasn't able to get him to and across the tawara so he backpedaled and evaded sideways and went for an shitatenage throw with his left arm. Kisenosato countered on the last moment and went for a counter throw which felled the Estonian at about the same time Kise went down. The gyoji originally pointed the gunbai to west in the direction of Kisenosato, but a mono-ii was called. The slow-motion replays showed immediately that Baruto had kept his hands and legs high while Kisenosato went down quite fast so there was no real question on Baruto winning the bout, but it was sloppy and defensive sumo. 

As Mike has pointed out on a number of occasions Baruto has the body and the means to become the worst nightmare of any opponent, but he is a very friendly and calm guy and doesn't do such deeply offensive and brute force attack that he could. What he does is evasive and defensive sumo which is bad, however due to his size and strength advantage he gets away with it (look at the left arm toss of Yoshikaze for example from yesterday). Today was no exception and I think that he will not improve on this unless he sees that such defensive sumo will not get him further than where he is already. At this point he is a freshman in Sanyaku, it's his third basho there and he has so far managed to nicely KK, however if he sees that such sumo will bring him only between 7-9 wins which will mean no upward movement, then he will hopefully start to change and become the Baruto that we all see hidden inside him. Let's hope that it doesn't take too long and that he can keep his current rank in the process. 

Aminishiki met his nemesis today. He has met Chiyotaikai a lot of times and it was only recently that he won the first time against the Ozeki. Well today wasn't meant to be the such a time. Aminishiki did henka to his left hoping to get past the main barrage, but Chiyo read the move perfectly and was all over Aminishiki in less than a second. He held the Sekiwake upright all the way never allowing any kind of counter move. Aminishiki tried to slip away, but alas it wasn't meant to be as he was escorted out. The Ozeki continues lossless and is looking very good this basho. It might be again one of those bashos where he kinda fights for the yusho all the way till day 13 or so, which might be tough luck for Kaio though the latter is doing well. Aminishiki only has that one win over mitsu. 

One Ozeki and one Maegashira came to this bout with one of them at 2-0 and the other at 0-2. Guess which one is which. Goeido did a good tachi-ai as did Kotomitsuki, but neither was able to finish in seconds. A nice and strong yotsu struggle followed with both featuring a solid right hand inside grip. Kotomitsuki attacked a number of times, but only was able to finish off Goeido after several attempts. To Kotomitsuki it means he finally gets his first win while for Goeido it's not that bad either. He is at 2-1 and showed very good and solid counter fighting, but just wasn't a match today for Kotomitsuki, who was on a mission to stop losing. Goeido needs some more experience among the jo'i, but he is already looking good and solid and can give a respectful fight to almost anyone on the banzuke. 

Well well... our good old horse who has changed not only his name and mawashi but also really cleaned up his facial hair, Harumafuji has come in to this tournament with everyone having great expectations of him only to disappoint them twice. Already yesterday I thought that he can't get screwed twice, but he did. I was fully sure he would stop losing today, but NO. And while the first two days looked like flukes where he screwed up by a simple mistake, then this was not the case today. Toyonoshima charged hard while ex-Ama-s tachi-ai was mediocre at best. And even though they stopped in the center for a moment he was easily pushed back and onto his ass by Toyonoshima. Impressive stuff from Toyo who I was considering injured, but it seems that the injury to Harumafuji is bigger, though not a physical one. He isn't going to have it any easier tomorrow when he meets Kisenosato. 

I've been commenting here only for one basho before, but rest assured I have had a number of times, where I was 100% sure it was the last basho of Kaio. Well I was 110% sure this time considering that he didn't really do any keiko and the injuries he got last basho didn't look like something that would be fully healed in two months especially considering his age. However the first two days had gone by quite quickly for him coming in today at 2-0. The opponent he was given for today, Kotoshogiku, hails from the same region as Kaio, but has had a solid record against him in the recent past. The match itself was not a long one (I doubt Kaio could go all out for an elongated bout). Today he hit, backpedaled a bit at which point Giku lost his balance slightly so as Kaio charged his foe he was able to easily force him back and out. The only part that seemed odd to me today was the negligible amount of countering from Kotoshogiku. He seemed to be slightly asleep, not really trying to get a solid grip or fight back with all he had. In any case Kaio improves to 3-0 and I wouldn't be surprised to see again a "last Kyushu basho" for Kaio. Giku is yet to win one which he better do soon if he wants to get that Komusubi spot. 

Kotooshu seems solid this basho. No staggering around or henkaing. Today he also hit hard and even though Yoshikaze evaded after the tachi-ai to keep a distance from the Ozeki the Bulgarian was easily able to counter anything the caffeinated one could throw at him. A small chase followed with both trading blows but once Kotooshu had a decent enough grip on Yoshi he pulled him close to a hug and from that moment on the feeble chance that Yoshi had that Kotooshu would stumble down on his own was gone and he just allowed himself to be escorted out. Solid stuff from Kotooshu and I sure hope he keeps on going with what he has shown so far. The caffeinated Yoshikaze needs a miracle if he wants another win the first week (I doubt he'll out tsuppari the tsuppari master tomorrow) and his second week isn't too promising either, so I guess Arbo's shorts are safe unless Takekaze goes on a roll. 

Well I'm glad that I'm finally able to comment on Asashoryu. One can see what his comeback has done to sumo by simply looking at the crowd. Even though today was no holiday in Japan that I know of the Koguikan seemed to be stuffed and the cheers he gets are a pleasant thing to listen to. Kyokutenho has looked solid and provided a few scares, but there was no real distress for Asa today as he charged hard and immediately secured a left outer grip which he then immediately upgraded to morozashi. Kyokutenho leaned in strong and tried to keep himself alive by slightly turning into Asashoryu, but all it did him was cause a slight stalemate at the tawara where Asa was contemplating on how to finish him off. He tried a leg trip by kirikaeshi, which didn't work so he just went for a throw dropping Kyokutenho to the clay with a sukuinage. Nice sumo from Asa who was never in any danger today and just tried to win by a more spectacular technique. I've heard people are talking that he might actually take the Yusho and even though that would be a great comeback, but I don't see Hakuho losing this one. 

Speaking of which, the final bout really doesn't give much to discuss as Hakuho showed up and did what was expected of him namely charge hard and win by yorikiri in two seconds. Miyabiyama who was on the receiving end today took it in a swing as he probably didn't even expect anything else to happen. Hakuho is solid and does everything correctly so all he has to do is show up every day and do his sumo to get the yusho. 

The "leader board" looks interesting after day three with both Yokozunas, three Ozeki, a Sekiwake and two Maegashira on it. It'll reshape itself soon enough, but it's good to see so many top dogs up there which could be promising for an interesting basho to come. I will see you again in a week, but don't run away as you might otherwise miss the quickie tomorrow by Kenji.

Day 2 Comments (Mike Wesemann reporting)
The highlight of day 1 was the atmosphere in the Ryogoku Kokugikan due to the return of Yokozuna Asashoryu. As he entered the arena, as he stepped onto the dohyo, and as he went through the pre-bout staredowns with Kisenosato, there was a tangible excitement running through the auditorium. Then when Asashoryu turned the tables and defeated Kisenosato in a comeback win, the crowd went wild sending out a collective cheer not heard since...not heard since...well, not heard since a Japanese rikishi accomplished something huge. In the past, the screams of excitement would have come as Kisenosato pushed the Yokozuna to the edge, and then the groans would have followed after Asashoryu reversed the action and forced Kisenosato out. But not so now. The Japanese people are staunch in their beliefs, they have their ways, and they have fierce pride when it comes to their race. But a guy can only take so much abuse and be treated so unfairly year after year until even the aforementioned traits of the Japanese melt away and they get behind the underdog. Asashoryu has clearly become the new crowd favorite, and it was moving to watch that scene unfold.

So it was a semi-surprise to me when I glanced at the day 1 headlines and saw mostly negativity surrounding the Yokozuna from the Japanese media. "Asashoryu gave not only one dame-oshi but two in his win" and "Asashoryu snaps at reporters again when asked about retirement" were the most prominent headlines. The media continues to paint Asashoryu as the villain and a bad guy, but the Japanese for the most part have come to the realization how special he has been to sumo. Can you just imagine the surge in popularity if Asashoryu continues to do well this basho and then takes the yusho at his favorite venue, Osaka in March? It would put the focus back in the ring more than any other event. Isn't it clear yet to some people how much sumo needs Asashoryu? I guarantee it that the Sumo Association knows who their golden goose is. But enough of this; it's nothing I haven't been saying for years now. Onto the action.

The first matchup of the day was compelling with M15 Tamanoshima fighting another crowd favorite, M16 Homasho, who has actually slipped off of a lot of peoples' radar. Homasho stayed low at the belt looking to latch on the front of Peter's belt with the left as he kept his opponent at bay with the right on the inside. Tamanoshima showed little resistance as he as he backed up and hunkered down almost daring Homie to go for the pulldown, but Homasho showed great maturity not to go for the move staying in front of Tamanoshima (1-1) and forcing him out with little argument on his way to a nice 2-0 start.

M14 Toyohibiki looked great yesterday dismantling Koryu in seconds with his patented nodowa charge, but add 100 kilos to his opponent, and that same feisty charge is largely neutralized. M15 Yamamotoyama played this one perfectly moving forward at the tachi-ai and then quickly wiping Toyohibiki's right arm at his throat away spinning the Nikibi off balance and popping him with a series of shoves that had all but squished across the straw in seconds leaving both rikishi at 1-1. Yamamotoyama looked great in this one, but the rikishi are going to figure out that you need to stick and jab. Simple physics suggests that once Yamamotoyama gets moving in a straight line, little will stop him, so you gotta get him moving laterally. It's easily done without a henka as Homasho showed yesterday. Still, Yamamotoyama's got some deftness to him, which makes him fun to watch. And of course at the end of the bout, NHK conducted the usual "Makuuchi first win" interview, and as they showed Yamamotoyama standing there in all of his girth, it looked as if he'd swallow Fujii announcer up right there on the spot. Fujii Announcer asked a myriad of questions, but the only response he got from Yamamotoyama was this deep guttural laugh that sounded like, "Oh-ho-ho-ho-hooooo. So----lo----."

I'm quite hard on M12 Tochiohzan, but it's only because I can see the potential in him. Today he wiped the dohyo clean with M14 Masatsukasa's arse handcuffing his left sashi attempt pinching inwards with the right outside position while keeping Masa upright with his own right hand on the inside. Masatsukasa looked to slip out of the hold, but Oh was on his every move and parlayed his great start into a solid left outer grip that he used to force Masatsukasa to edge where he added insult to injury by shoving him down hard and off the dohyo with his free right hand. It's perfect stuff from Tochiohzan (2-0), but it's happening at the wrong place on the banzuke. Still, another day of great sumo. Masatsukasa's winless.

M13 Tamawashi knew exactly what was coming today from M12 Kakizoe as the smaller rikishi dived in quickly looking for the morozashi grip, but Tamawashi stayed low and used his left arm on the inside to deny Zoe what he wanted inviting the quick pull attempt from the Musashigawa-beya rikishi. The Mawashi was all over the move and easily pushed Zoe (0-2) back and out with ease picking up his first win in the process.

The same words for Tochiohzan apply to M11 Tochinoshin who faced M13 Koryu today. After two false starts--one from each party--Tochinoshin was too upright at the tachi-ai allowing Koryu to take the quick advantage with some well-placed tsuppari into Tochinoshin's throat, but NoShine's strength prevailed here as he used his backwards momentum to dig in at the edge as he went for a counter pull move and then just knocked Koryu to the clay with a paw to the side of his opponent's neck. Definitely not as smooth as Tochiohzan, but Tochinoshin (2-0) is well on his way to a nice basho that will put him right back up among the jo'i. Koryu's winless.

M10 Tokitenku showed why he's struggling today by going into immediate stalemate mode from the tachi-ai burrowing his melon into M11 Iwakiyama's upper torso, so Iwakiyama took charge himself using his left in the inside position to keep Tenku at bay while grabbing a fierce armbar on the other side with his right arm wrapped tightly around Tokitenku's left from the outside. From this position, Iwakiyama used his girth to lift Tenku straight up where he wrested the insurmountable left inside position that he used to throw Tokitenku over to the straw bellying him back and out from there. Iwakiyama not only picks up his first win but how sweet is this dude's profile where his nose comes in third place behind his forehead and chin in terms of sticking out the farthest? Tokitenku's make-koshi streak looks alive and well at 0-2.

M10 Tochinonada charged a bit high against M9 Chiyohakuho, but he still managed to keep his left arm on the inside of Chuck's right. Chuck grabbed the gifted right outer grip, but the veteran Tochinonada was in the position he wanted and used his hip nicely to nudge Chiyohakuho over to the edge where he was easy force-out bait from there. After the bout, they showed Chuck in the hanamachi gesturing to his tsukebito how he almost had him with the outer grip, but dude, you weren't even close. Tochinonada kicked your ass. Chuck (1-1) needs to stay away from the belt and stick to what got him here...middleweight tsuppari. The Gentle Giant is 2-0 if ya need him.

M8 Asasekiryu has gotten lazy in his sumo. M9 Tosanoumi is an opponent he should just school, but he underestimated Tosanoumi's pop at the tachi-ai and then tried to compensate with a stupid pull move. When Tosanoumi sniffed out Sexy's every move, Asasekiryu had no choice but to go for a ridiculous kubi-nage (neck throw) hold, but Tosanoumi was so far on Sexy's inside that he bullied the Mongolian towards the straw and had the room to swipe at Asasekiryu's thigh tripping him off balance as he dumped him across the tawara. Asasekiryu (0-2) should have been the one charging low and tripping his opponent off balance in this one, so props to Tosanoumi (1-1) for keeping these guys honest.

M7 Dejima failed to commit on his freight train charge at the tachi-ai prolly in fear of a M8 Kakuryu henka. Kakuryu got his opponent upright early with some nice shoves to Dejima's throat, but Dejima countered with his right arm on the inside of his opponent that was deep enough to sufficiently take control of the bout, but no one can run like Kakuryu (just ask Martin), so the Mongolian evaded back towards the straw baiting Dejima into committing on the force out while Kakuryu slipped to the side and dragged Dejima (1-1) down on top of the straw. Vintage Kak sumo here as he shoots to 2-0.

M7 Hokutoriki greatly resisted the urge to fondle M6 Bushuyama's triple G's opting to focus his shoves into Bushuyama's throat instead. Couple that with some nice footwork from the Jokester, and he had Bushuyama (1-1) retreating quickly to the straw and tripping over his own feet as he tried to evade the Hokutoriki attack. No such luck as the veteran Hokutoriki (2-0) dominated this one from the start and scored the oshi-taoshi win. Good stuff.

Time to send in the clown with M5 Takamisakari bringing his act into the ring against M6 Aran. Sakari actually false-started his way out of this one throwing his left arm towards the clay only to flinch and pull it back before sending it down again, this time barely touching. Aran charged at the move and was able to catch Takamisakari upright with a few nice nodowa shoves. Aran kept his opponent standing straight with a stiff left arm into Takamisakari's throat giving the Cop no option but to go for a quick pull. The Russian should have finished this one off faster, but he methodically drove Takamisakari back and out adding insult to injury with a right hand that connected squarely on Takamisakari's nose in the process. At 0-2, Takamisakari necessarily hasn't fought great competition, but he's off to a horrible start where he hasn't executed an offensive maneuver the first two days. Aran is 1-1.

In an interesting affair, M4 Wakanosato hooked up with M5 Futenoh in the immediate hidari-yotsu position and while Wakanosato had Futenoh's right arm straight up in the air and completely neutralized, Futenoh had his jaw planted into Wakanosato's torso giving Futenoh the lower stance. So with each maintaining an advantage, a stalemate ensued, but it was a stalemate where each rikishi moved all around the ring trying to shake the other one out of position. Wakanosato actually got a right outer grip in the melee, but he was so worn out in the end that even though he had Futenoh (1-1) slumped over and ready to be pushed out, he hadn't the strength to finish off the job and just stumbled out of the ring on his own like a drunkard ready to pass out. The Croc's 0-2 start has been anything but fresh.

M3 Goeido kept both arms in low and provided a decent pop against M4 Kokkai who opted to hunker down from the beginning. With his right arm sufficiently on the inside of his opponent, Goeido moved quickly to his left and just shoved the hapless Kokkai over in about two seconds. This one was a strange bout throughout, but Kokkai's lack of effort was what made it look so easy for Goeido who is off to a quiet 2-0 start. Kokkai is 1-1.

Moving to the sanyaku, M2 Yoshikaze gave Sekiwake Baruto his best shot not to mention a huge scare, but the Estonian's sheer size allowed him to win in the end. Yoshikaze charged low and used a nice tsuppari attack to knock Baruto upright, and while the Estonian used his length over the top to grab the back of Cafe's belt with the right end, Yoshikaze pushed him away and had Bart moving dangerously towards the edge, but Baruto somehow managed to reach over the top again--this time with the left--and grab a fold of Yoshikaze's belt with his fingertips using it to sling Yoshikaze from the center of the ring onto the edge of the dohyo in one fell swoop. All this while standing completely upright. Amazing show of strength from Baruto; unfortunately it came in the name of counter sumo.

About 10 minutes prior to the Makuuchi bouts on day 1, the top trio of sumo commentators you'll find anywhere (Kitanofuji, Mainoumi, Fujii Announcer) were sitting in NHK's broadcast booth enjoying a candid conversation waiting for the bouts to start. They talked about the prominent rikishi one by one and their hopes for each of them in 2009, and when the conversation focused on Baruto, Mainoumi said it best offering, "I'd really like to see Baruto take full advantage of his size and strength." Baruto used his size and strength to survive today against Yoshikaze, but what Mainoumi meant is that Baruto could become almost unstoppable if he learned how to use his size to dictate the pace of his bouts instead of reacting to his opponents. Nonetheless, the lug is 2-0 while Yoshikaze's luck runs just short at 1-1.

Ozeki Kotomitsuki delivered the most dominating tachi-ai you'll ever see knocking M3 Takekaze back to the straw in one hop with a sweet kachi-age move with the left hand, but it actually is possible to knock your opponent back too far because in the process the Ozeki created too much separation. As Kotomitsuki lunged forward to finish off his bidness, Takekaze quickly evaded to his left leaving Kotomitsuki at the ring's edge while Takekaze scooted to the center of the ring. Now out of position himself, Kotomitsuki could only offer a weak pull attempt as the feisty Takekaze pushed him out for the incredible comeback win. Shame shame everyone knows Kotomitsuki's name at 0-2. Takekaze (1-1) enjoys a rare win.

And speaking of shame, getting promoted to Ozeki doesn't give a rikishi license to suck. Now that I think about it and dwell on the sumo of the original four Ozeki, maybe it does. Harumafuji meant well against M2 Miyabiyama using his tsuppari to drive the Sheriff back towards the straw, but Harumafuji's legs were nowhere to be found, so while he had the former Ozeki with his heels on the straw, the Miyabiyama (1-1) used a nice twist move evading to his left while pushing into Harumafuji's right side sending the Ozeki down to the clay for a rather embarrassing loss not to mention an 0-2 start. Harumafuji will be just fine. The problem the first two days is he's rushing things. Well, that and he's probably fought the two weakest guys he'll face this basho. Harumafuji has nothing left to prove; he deservers the Ozeki rank and needs to be settled down by his stablemaster.

I thought Miyabiyama gifted Ozeki Kaio the win yesterday, but his bout against Sekiwake Aminishiki today was over too fast to even tell. Ami stayed low at the tachi-ai, but Kaio just held his ground and went for the quick shoulder slap down with the right hand that sent Aminishiki to the dirt less than two seconds in. Can't comment further but Kaio is 2-0. I'll believe he's back when he defeats an opponent legitimately. Ami's 1-1.

Two rivals squared off today in Ozeki Kotooshu vs. Komusubi Kisenosato, but this one wasn't even close. Kotooshu charged straight forward and popped Kisenosato as he kept both arms low denying the Kid any sort of inside position, and from this stance, Kotooshu used brilliant footwork to keep moving forward pushing Kisenosato back and out in the three second process. Considering the competition, this was Kotooshu's best sumo in several basho. He looked great in completely dismantling Kisenosato on his way to a nice 2-0 start. There was no shame whatsoever for Kisenosato (0-2) in the loss. He was just dominated by a bigger, stronger opponent. Whouda thunk Kotooshu would be the stable Ozeki this basho so far?

Ozeki Chiyotaikai was a man on mission today. Perhaps sensing that his opponent is injured, he just crushed Komusubi Toyonoshima back from the tachi-ai with his patented tsuppari attack, and when Toyonoshima desperately tried to evade to the side, Chiyotaikai grabbed onto Toyo's left arm from the outside in a stifling armbar hold that he used to finish him off without argument.  Veterans like the Pup can smell blood when these younger guys are injured, so props to Chiyotaikai laying the wood and moving to 2-0. Toyonoshima is limp at 0-2.

In the Yokozuna ranks, Hakuho walked right into a left outer grip from M1 Kyokutenho, but Hakuho just wrenched his can a bit shaking off Tenho's outer grip with ease. The move was so smooth that next thing you knew, Hakuho had a left outer of his own on the other side. Hakuho kept his hips back as he wrenched Kyokutenho away from another outside belt grip maneuvering him towards the straw in the process where he dug in and went for the final yori-kiri kill with little resistance. This was decisive sumo from the Yokozuna who finished off an opponent who prolly wasn't giving it 100%. Hakuho is 2-0 while the Chauffeur (0-2) can't get out of this region fast enough.

In the final bout of the day, Yokozuna Asashoryu kept his left arm in tight at the tachi-ai in a move that gave M1 Kotoshogiku the instant right outer grip forcing the Yokozuna to counter once again with that injured left arm, but Asashoryu moved well and shook off Kotoshogiku's outer grip looking to grab morozashi in the process. As Kotoshogiku looked to fight off Asa's right arm in the inside by lowering his body, Asashoryu shifted gears on a dime and shoved the former Sekiwake to the clay from the side. Unlike his bout yesterday, Asashoryu was in little trouble today, and the key for the Yokozuna is to rack up the wins anyway he can early because that helps restore his ring sense. Having gotten Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku out of the way this early unscathed is huge for the Yokozuna. Should be mostly gravy for the rest of week one.

That's a wrap on day 2. Ever wondered the pros and cons vs. grabbing the upper hammer compared to the lower hammer on the girder and barrels board? Mario splains it all tomorrow.

Day 1 Comments (Clancy Kelly reporting)
Hello and welcome to the next time. Yes, I know by the dominant paradigm it's 2009, but really, that's so subjective, innit? Now completing a revolution of our star, Sol, is relatively objective, and since I am a Sol-ipsist if anything (I write these reports, and these explanatory asides, to keep myself grounded in the illusion that there exists something other than me and my thoughts), I will say Happy Winter! I'm also a Loonie (you guessed?) and this has been a fantastic season for Luna, starting with that crescent, toenail clipping of a moon in early December that was paired up in the early evening sky with a Venus looking brighter than a 10 year-old in a spelling bee ("Harumafuji. h-A-r-u-M-A-f-u-j-i. Harumafuji.") and a Jupiter not looking too shabby herself for a bloated, three billion year-old gas giant (Jupiter is so effin cool, no? Remember that comet that slammed into it in the 90's? Didn't leave so much as a scratch. If that thing had hit Terra, instead of a pending inauguration, we'd be looking at General-for-Life Obama, with his Pamela Anderson looking bitch in shredded camo wear, leading his band of 300 to a new life in the caves of the Daniel Boone National Forest, where they'll subsist on wild ginseng and the new goat-sized rats) and continuing with a the third biggest full moon of the 25 year period from 1993 to 2017, a moon that has engendered some seriously awesome perigean tides here on my island.

What has also been making waves is shin-Ozeki hAruMAfuji's rise to the top of the sport. The "good" Mongolian, who returned to Japan and on orders fought in the 2007 Hatsu basho even though his father had just perished that Dec. in a car crash (the Japanese eat that "work before family" shit up!) has supplanted the "bad" Mongolian Asashoryu (the Mongolian national hero who dared to acquiesce to his president and play a charity soccer match with Mongolian children even though his back was not strong enough to wrestle Kaio--wtph?) You can get your fill of the particulars from Mike's awesome pre-basho, but as we head into Day One it doesn't look good for Genghis Benghis while it's looking all cherries and chutney for hAruMAfuji! 

So do you think Kisenosato had that ass whoopin he gave Asa in front of the YDC on his mind, or perhaps his two dominating wins over the Yokozuna last year? If he didn't he was the only one, Asashoryu included. The Kid never lacks for chutzpah, and he seemed poised and ready to give the fourth all-time winningest Yokozuna the first shove on his downhill trip to retirement. A ferocious face attack at tachi-ai gave the Komusubi an advantageous position, which he used to press in on Asa's right side and grab the outside belt, thereby inviting the Yokozuna, nay demanding the Yokozuna use his injured elbow to counter with. The strategy was working as Asa was totally unable to throw with his dodgy left stump, and he was being driven back to a perpendiculous (ridiculously perpendicular) pushout (the one that looks like a dog humping a leg) when he sweetly slid that humped left leg back and just barely around Kid's right knee, putting himself parallel to the youngster. Now chest to chest, Asa got underneath the left pit and with both hands inside (and the left holding Kise's belt), charged him back and out, ending it all with two emphatic face shoves, one to make sure the Komusubi was well and truly out and the other to make sure he knows who is still the Khan.

Exhilarating stuff, emphatic finish, but Genghis was definitely in the soup for a moment there, and he had better follow up with a beatdown of Kotoshogiku tomorrow or the "bogus" but sadly all-too-real drive to retire Asashoryu (perpetuated by numerous bungholes in and around sumo) will continue purring smoothly along.

If anything could make the aforementioned puckers reconsider their lynching mentality it might be the sorry assed manner in which hAruMAfuji was humiliated by Yoshikaze of all people. Leading with a left hand face slap, the shin-Ozeki was caught completely unawares by the caffeinated one, who timed a twisting backstep perfectly, coupling it with a deft deflection of hAruMAfuji's right forearm. The anointed one had nowhere to go but quickly out all a stumble, pretty much the exact same way he lost to Goeido last basho (thanks to Martin for that heads up).

Not to take anything away from what Ama accomplished in reaching Ozeki, but this pathetic loss (while not atypical of Ama's style, i.e. kill the big boys, lose to small, fast, scrubs), followed as it was by Asa's win over the always dangerous Kisenosato (who assuredly remains in the running for next Japanese Yokozuna) highlights how far he, or anyone for that matter, has to go to replace Asashoryu as the sport's biggest draw. What does it say if on the very first day of the "new era," during which hAruMAfuji is expected by many to challenge Hakuho on a regular basis and perhaps become the third Mongolian Yokozuna, he loses to a career lower Maegashira with a penchant for Starbucks? Ama may have lost to scrubs, but Ozeki hAruMAfuji shouldn't be.

This is not about hAruMAfuji, btw. He may well deliver on all the promise he shows now (though I have wondered over the last two months if everyone recalls just how many sidesteps and outright henka Ama used to get here). Point is, Asa is a proven commodity, and barring injury is the only one who can unquestionably challenge Hakuho regularly, for at least another four years. Does sumo really need him driven out by racist jagovs? Methinks not.

On paper the Hakuho/Toyonoshima matchup looked intriguing, despite their head2head. Toyo had a breakout year in 2008, a great 11-4 from M5 in May followed by a delirious 10-5 from Komusubi with wins over Asashoryu and three Ozeki before stumbling in Sept. to a Sekiwake 6-9 but finishing on an strong with a M1 9-6 in Kyushu including four Ozeki hides. However scuttlebutt has it Toyo's in a world of pain, so it was no surprise when his tachi-ai lacked discernible oomph vs Kublai, whose legs were positioned expertly for the tachi-ai dance, right back left forward push, left back right forward push. There was a brief stall in the center where Hakuho sniffed for a front belt, but he quickly realized it wasn't necessary and just got two hands inside and drove the squirming but hardly protesting West Komusubi out. If Hakuho (who looks scary lean and lithe) executes all his tachi-ai this fast and strong here in January, he will also be executing his foes daily.

Kotomitsuki had no opportunity to show us whether he is in shape or not because Aminishneaky went for the famed "cheap uwate" which means he slid to one side and grabbed the belt near the hip bone, then using his foes compromised balance to doggy hump him out. It's called a henka and it bites three kinds of hard cheese, but it gets rewarded as we can see by this serial henkaphile sitting pretty at West Sekiwake. If that's how you like your sumo, douzo as we say in Nippon, be my guest.

"Douzo" was the concept on Miyabiyama's mind as he lined up against Kaio, who is looking to defy the former spurts once again and hold onto his Ozeki rank with eight wins. Kaio is beloved in sumo (and not only by Doreen Simmons--who by the way pisses me off when she talks about Hakuho's honorable sumo and contrasts it with what she sees as Asashoryu's thuggishness--tough titties, sister!) and while I'm not claiming Flobby is off to the bank first thing tomorrow morning with his ten mahn yen, I do think he was feeling one of those "Long Live the King" moments when he inexplicably responded to a Kaio armbar just after tachi-ai by turning away from the Ozeki instead of into him, offering up his brokebackside for the ultra 'spicious manwich loss. Is this how it's going to be once again for Fukuoka Koga, red carpeted by enough of his pals to reach KK? As I said above, whatever floats your boat.

So let's see, that's three Ozeki bouts and each one sucked. How about the other two? Well, Chiyotaikai left the gate before Kotoshogiku had even one hand down, but because he's also sumo royalty, it was noted like a pimple on the Emperor's nose, in other words, not at all (including Doreen and genial but tame Ross Mihara). From that tachi-aye aye aye it was asameshi mae for Chiyotaikai to slam the Geeku to the edge, wait for the counter lean forward, and slap and pull his big ol' butt down. To add insult to injury, Geeku was called back by the very same numbnut judges who ignored the false start and told to re-bow his head "properly". I am a free man who cares little for fame or fortune, and it's just gotta suck chrome nobs to have to take that kind of shit. 

In the last of the Ozeki bouts, Kyokutenho showed that he is prepared to do what Mike is always pointing out, namely be mediocre enough at a high rank like M1 to fall down to a lower rank where he can get ten wins like he did from M6 in Nov. and repeat the cycle. Today he showed very little moxie vs Kotooshu, so much so that Ross even commented to the effect that if Kotooshu wrestles like that this time, we'd better watch out. Please. Yes, the Bulgarian Web Logger got a strong inside right belt from the word go and turned that into a double handed inside he used to back the former Mongolian out, but he has to beat a determined foe in order to start touting him as a yusho threat. Do it tomorrow vs. Kisenosato and we'll talk. Still, by far the best Ozeki bout of the day, which ain't saying much.

In the most important bout not involving sanyaku rikishi, Goeido served notice he may be up for some yusho chasing his bad self with a lightning fast shellacking of Wakanosato. The Croc made a tactical blunder by leading with a slap to the kisser, but all that did was open his flank up, and the ballsy Gonado quickly snatched it and drove the E4 out.

Goliath got the better of David today as Baruto used his over the top belt grip to center Takekaze, who had buried himself in Biomass' belly like a guinea pig afraid of thunder. Once Takekaze moved back and stood up a bit, Baruto gave him a shove that was off target but still good enough to send the tiny E3 out. Not a purdy win but mites can be trouble for giants, so the Estonian should be glad to get this one out of the way. Tomorrow he gets an extra eight centimeters when he meets the slightly larger Yoshikaze.

Kokkai hit Futenoh with that forearm swiping tachi-ai of his, which looks kind of like a swimmer doing the breaststroke, and then went for the slapdown, which didn't work. Futenoh got to leaning on Kokkai with his left arm inside but with no belt because the Georgian had it locked down. As Fruity made a move with his right hand to grab the belt, Kokkai stood up amazingly fast and spun the E5 around, bodying him out via yorikiri. A great comeback win for the White Knight.

Takamisakari did everything right pre-fight, slapping all the right places, scratching all the right spots, clenching his fists and pounding them down into the air like a child refusing to take medicine, then throwing the salt high and clear across the dohyo, but in the end it did him no good as his frantic clutching for Bushuyama's front mawashi proved fruitless. The E6, in dire need of a Manssiere, adroitly held Bean up with his left arm palm up on his ribcage and his right palm down on his chest, and Circus had nowhere to go but back and out, even as his foe fell to the dirt. Takamisakari was seen wearing a t-shirt later that read, "I wrestled in the Hatsu Basho and all I got was bufu'd by Bushu!"

A sophomore like Bushuyama, Aran got bamboozled by Hokutoriki, who used that tinny tsuppari of his to drive the Russian back and embarrassingly out. All I can say is that when you make the Hoaxster look like Chiyotaikai circa 2000, it's not good.

A lightning fast result for Dejima as he hit hard and then slapped down Sexy. Uneventful.

Kakuryu quickly smashed up and into Tosanoumi, and the veteran retreated like the French. Is Kakuryu the new Ama? Martin told me privately he thinks, yes!

Chiyohakuho and Tokitenku had one of those longer belt battle bouts that we normally see later in the basho as the men tire during the fortnight. In the end both guys had the top strand of each other's mawashi riding quite high, and I was a fearin' we'd start seeing some pubes (I'm gonna hurl!), but Toki went for a throw at the edge that failed due to magnificent balancing leg work by his foe, and in the counter move Chuck lifted him up and took him back and out.

Tochinonada got under the arms on Iwonkeykong and tried for a sukuinage throw, but when that didn't work he hopped toward him and at the edge shoved the Hutt down rather too easily.

Kakizoe had a great morozashi tachi-ai spoilt by Tochinoshin, who was shining today as he twisted from an upright position and spun the smaller man out. Perhaps Kakizoe was rushing it a bit and forgetting the basics. If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

TochiOhSnap was looking to get in on the mawashi of The Mawashi, who clamped his arms together and fought it off as best he could. Unfortunately, while he was trying to prevent that infiltration, Snap stepped backward and yanked Tamawashi down to the dirt. They called it a katasukashi, but The Mawashi was down before Snap's right hand pressed down on his shoulder, so I'd say hikiotoshi.

Toyohibiki wasn't having any of it as he strangled Koryu and removed him like a spot on a rug. A crushing loss for the Mongolian and a promising showing from the man who was M2 in Nov. but sat out due to injury and plummeted to his current M14. That's one hell of a demotion, folks.

Masatsukasa started off well vs. Tamanoshima, getting in under the pits and lifting up, but Peter's height advantage proved the difference as he was able to lean in and stop the forward momentum, and from there grabbed the outside right belt and worked the W14 to the bales and out.

Much as I hate to admit it, I agree with Mike. Yamamotoyama is going to have a hard time sticking in Makuuchi, where the speed and wiles are thrice what they are lower down. Seriously, can you imagine him beating any one of the following rikishi even once: Hakuho, Asashoryu, hAruMAfuji, Aminishiki, Toyonoshima, Kisenosato? Or these guys more than once: Mitsuki, Goeido, Tokitenku, Kyokutenho, Kotooshu? Today Homasho hit him hard, held him up, and let him fall. It was ludicrulously easy. As for my Homeyboy, he had a very weird year in 2008. 4-11 to open it up, then three consecutive 9-6 took him to M2, where an injury forced him to sit out and he was dropped all the way to M15! Yowza, the powers that be aren't playing games with the infirm, are they? Then a 7-8 in Nov. but managed to stay in at W16. I want to see him win eleven in a bad way.

Speaking of getting an extra eight centimeters, Mike uncoils it for you on Day 2.












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